The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
Friday, 9 p.m.
It took Mark Bittner -- old hippie, squatter, wannabe rock star -- a long time to find love, but when he did it came on the wings of a flock of wild parrots. Like Bittner, the green and red birds ended up in living in San Francisco's Telegraph Hill neighbourhood mostly by accident. Native to the jungles of South America, the birds were born in the wild, captured and brought to the U.S., sold as exotic pets and then either escaped or were let loose. Despite the cool winters, the parrots and their offspring thrived in the urban setting with plenty of food and few predators. Bittner, who lived rent-free in a small cottage, befriended the birds and before long was spending his days caring for and observing these colourful, sociable creatures. One observer referred to him as "the St. Francis of Telegraph Hill." What begins as a hobby eventually takes on the intensity of a vocation for Bittner, who spent 15 years looking for what the Buddhists call "right living." One day, Bittner says, the parrots became "the thing that I'm doing. It's magic that way."