Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
It can be surprising to see the wildlife that can be found in urban areas. A case in point is a flock of cherry-headed conures living in
On one level, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is about that flock of birds. We do get to learn a great deal about them as a flock and also we get to know specific birds and their idiosyncrasies. But this isn’t really an urban wildlife film. As we watch we become aware that there is a certain unity of bird and human life. Perhaps it’s a bit of anthropomorphism, but it also reflects the interaction of the birds and their friend, Mark Bittner.
Of course, Bittner is something of a wild urban bird himself. He came to
The film really is more a study of Bittner than it is of the parrots. These aren’t his birds, they live in the wild. He takes them in when they are sick and need care. He brings them food. But they really don’t need him. They are perfectly capable of surviving in the city – and they had been for some time before Bittner began his work with them. It seems more that he needs them. The birds are what have allowed him to find his place in the world.
Although not formally educated, Bittner is well read, both about the birds and about life. He tends to think in Buddhist terms that reflect the oneness of the world. He sees that worldview reflected in his relationship with the birds.
We see the birds through Bittner’s eyes. He tells us about the various birds, their stories, their personalities. And we do begin to see that all of these birds are individuals. As much as they seem to all be alike, they all behave differently. We learn about their relationships with one another. We learn about the dangers they face – especially the hawks. We see what it is like for the lone blue-headed conure, who is part of the flock, but also not really a part. The more Bittner tells us about these birds, the more we begin to see human behavior reflected.
This film is a wonderful blend of nature and human nature. It gives us the joy of seeing these beautiful birds in their new environment. It also gives us the joy of seeing a man who has found something in his life that brings fulfillment and meaning. And it is a joy to discover the oneness that we can have with God’s creation.