I’m Mark Bittner, the author of a book and the subject of a documentary film, both entitled The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. The subtitle of this blog is “It’s All About Religion and Politics.” But it’s really about anything I want to address. I do think about religion and politics a lot, though, and there will be plenty on both. I’m currently working on a book, Street Song, which is about the years I spent living on the streets of San Francisco, and I’ll be posting progress reports along the way. I’ve started the third and final draft. I’ve been at this around eight years now and probably have a year and a half or two to go (as of January 12, 2015).

15 Responses to “About”

  1. Kathy Says:

    A friend, about two years ago, told me to watch “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”. She said it was a great documentary, but naturally, I never got around to it.

    In September I got the opportunity to come to San Francisco (from my home in Wilmington, NC) on an extended business trip and while I was here on that trip, I fell in love with North Beach and the area around the Coit Tower. I was reminded again of the documentary on Columbus Day, during the air show. I walked to the Coit Tower to get a good view of the city and the jets. I realized as I saw the startled birds flying overhead, that THIS was Telegraph Hill! This was the area the documentary was about!

    At any rate, I ended up being offered a job here and have relocated to the area. I just finished watching the documentary for the first time and I just loved it. Judy’s footage of the airshow made me smile, of course.

    Your story is fantastic and I was so tickled that you and Judy have ended up together…it’s just such a fantastic thing to know that such a good hearted person with such a “different”, healthy and interested outlook on life is doing well. I look forward to reading “The Wild Parrots…” and your future work.

  2. markbittner Says:

    It’s often interesting what brings somebody to the film. A lot of people avoid it thinking it’s going to be some “nature movie.” More people see movies than read books, so thank you for your interest in the book. There are some signed copies down at City LIghts Bookstore.

  3. D Says:

    My wife discovered the movie, and being a long time resident of the Bay Area, of course, I had to see it. “Parrots of Telegraph Hill” is not only interesting but genuine and warming. Having raised animals as a child, I could relate via my own memories and experiences in working with animals from their births to their departing — cycles of existence so to speak. Thanks for making the film/sharing.

    Regarding the conjunction of your sensitivity towards natural life and your spiritual interests, Acts 17:24-31 of God’s Holy Bible came to my mind.
    From there we know, there is hope (because of Christ) for everlasting life, reserved for many people as Revelation 7:9-17 may help people see.

    The best (may God bless) for you both. D

  4. T_Hip_Fan Says:

    Hi Mark,

    Just watched “Wild Parrots” for the first time.
    It was recommended by a friend.

    I think your old landlords should have done those renovations for you.
    I think if they truly ment that “They don’t need the space” that profit aside, you belong there! If I had it within my means, YOU WOULD BE THERE… you made an interesting point about the two different sides of the Ornithology fence, each being uninterested in your studies. I also know that as you said, it is very hard to do in depth studies of parrots as they are usually elusive(except around you)

    and yes it could have been anybody else with bird food in hand, but i think there are people like you that are rare, not because of your devotion but even with good intentions and bird food in hand, there are alot of people that give off negative energy and those parrots would have never warmed up (even if they had a year as you did b4 they warmed up to you). I truly believe ALL animals have a sense that transcends language. I think they are more tuned into energy then we humans are …yet…

    I just wanna tell you that the documentary was very well done
    and i think you are a nobel man and I wish you the best in your future endeavors.


    Oh!!!! and my friend said that there is a follow up to “Wild Parrots”
    I havnt traveled around your blog yet, but im looking forward to finding the follow up story or video.

    Take Care

    • markbittner Says:

      We tried to make it clear that my “landlords” were good people. I had no problem with their decision. I was grateful to them. My book makes that clearer. (Books can go into greater depth than a film.) The only update is on the DVD extras, the new edition, double disk, collector’s, etc. At the moment, I’m working on a book about my time previous my meeting the parrots—the period where I was on the street. You can find more on my website.

  5. Kelly Says:

    My family and I first watched your film after we acquired our own parrot, a Congo African Grey named Bibi. We’ve been trying to read and watch as much as we can about parrots in order to learn the most we can about our new little friend. Your movie was amazing! I didn’t realize there also is a book, until I came here, to your blog. Now I am very much looking forward to reading it… and your blog, of course.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us. I’d bet that you’ve been able to meet a number of interesting people as a result. We, too, have been connecting with folks all over the world solely because of our 3-year-old little bird. We’ve been posting videos of Bibi on YouTube for a couple of years, but it wasn’t until May 2009 that we began a daily webcam broadcast. Since then we’ve learned that Bibi offers a great deal of comfort and joy to people who cannot have a bird of their own. Bibi receives email thanking her for helping their autistic boy learn new words, for providing company to a woman watching from her nursing home bed, for putting the smile on the faces of people fighting terminal illnesses, suffering from chronic pain, recovering from spinal cord injuries, undergoing chemotherapy, grieving the death of a spouse…. the list is immense. Who could have predicted such an outcome? Certainly not me! If you would like to see Bibi in action, please come visit her webcam on her website (bibisteps.com). She is most talkative in the early morning and at mealtimes. You know how dogs beg for scraps at the table? Well, Bibi goes far beyond that… “I want some pizza!” or “I’ll have chicken.” If only we can teach her to say “please” someday. 😉

  6. Ellen Says:

    I came to this blog after finally ‘getting around to’ watching the documentary. I’ll now be pursuing a copy of the book. I cannot stop crying, both happy tears for you and Judy ending up a couple (and what a cute way to toss that in) and also tears for Connor.

    Years ago as a teen I worked in a pet store. I had no previous experience or interest in parrots, but there was a yellow crowned amazon that was scared of everyone and cage bound. It took awhile, but I got him to come out and hang out with me while I worked, and I fell in love. Just as I was plotting to procure the funds to buy him, he was sold. My heart broke, but I vowed to share my love with a bird someday.

    Nearly a decade later, married with a five-year-old, the husband I decided we were ready to bring a bird into our household. Sooner than we expected, Bogey (a Timneh African Grey) found us. He was supposed to be our one and only birdy – I think he would’ve had no problem with that at all.

    Then one day, while at a different (very nice, small, privately-owned) pet store just getting cat food…this little green bird noticed me as I was walking and started turning headstands and screaming his head off. I’d never been interested in the smaller birds, but he was so adorable I had to take him out and visit with him. Turns out he was a Blue Crown Conure, only about four months old at the time. He was the last one of three or four and ‘just wasn’t selling.’ We spent nearly an hour with him before I wrenched myself away to go home.

    We visited four more times…before we brought him home. The girl at the pet store insisted that the screaming and gymnastics only happened for me, and I can certainly believe it – he’s Momma’s bird. He chose me, and there will not be a day in my life that I am not grateful for him. Seeing Connor, and how out of all of the birds there, how special he was, just gave me warm fuzzies. Bearing some sort of witness to Connor’s sad death broke my heart, but I’m grateful for that as well.

  7. Susan Says:

    Hi Mark, I watched the movie last night and absolutely LOVED it. I had originally found out about it this past fall when I stumbled into your website while searching for info on San Francisco. I didn’t watch it at that time for whatever reason, but then, last night I saw it for rent on iTunes and I rented it right away. So glad I did. Your story is so interesting and the connection you had with these birds was just amazing. What a journey. I cried twice…almost three times because I didn’t want it to end 🙂

  8. Tanya Says:

    Hello Mark!
    PBS just ran the parrots documentary last night (in Madison, WI) and it was the first I’ve heard of or seen it, but wow! I can’t get your beautiful story out of my head (and thus here I am tracking you down). My sis lives in SF so we’ve visited there a few times; your personal casualness and compassion really exemplify what is so attractive about that area and many of the folks who live there. I look forward to reading your blog and hopefully your new book in the future!
    Take care and the best of luck to you.

  9. Deborah Garner Says:


    Thanks for everything – the movie, the book which I must now find and for following your heart and Judy.

    You’re an inspiration.



  10. John Shepherd Says:

    Mark & Judy,

    I just finished watching your film on OPB (NPR). To say that I was moved is an understatement. It is so good to see someone follow their dream and find themselves in the process. To share your journey was a pleasure. Thank you for opening your life to us out here in NPR land. I feel richer for the experience.

    As a side note, It is interesting that you originated in Vancouver, Wa. and migrated to California. I grew up in Manhattan Beach, CA and ended up in Vancouver, WA. We were down visiting this past year and observed the wild parrots of Hermosa Beach. That experience came to mind while watching your film.

    In any event, best wished to You both going forward. Thank you, again, for sharing this slice of life with all of us. If only we all treated each other as well as the parrots do, we would be better for it. I think there is a lesson here for all of us, especially the Greedy Old Party out there.

    Thanks again and take care…..

    John Shepherd
    Vancouver, WA

  11. gina klein Says:

    i just finished watching the movie. I was simply blown away. I find myself enchanted by the parrots that I see flying over my apartment in Cow Hollow. It is so great to see who they are. Thank you for this great addition to my life!

  12. natasha Says:

    I live in Mountain View,Ca south of San Fransisco and today on my walk I heard some noise in the air I look up and see a flock of birds, not knowing what they were I followed their flight path and they landed in a tree outside my house. There were six parrots, they hung out for about 5 minutes and then were on their way 🙂

    It was quite exciting!

  13. Sharon Osborne Says:

    Dear Mark and Judy, I’d heard about “The Wild Parrots….” video for several years, but somehow never saw it. Last evening a friend rented it and asked me over, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. Woke up at 4 a.m. this morning thinking about it and wondering if you two were still together and thriving, so here you are, and the news is good and lovely. About the film: I was especially struck by your unfailing respect for the wildness of the parrots, letting them make their own decisions about what they wanted to do and where to be., even as you loved them so much and recognized their love for you. This is rare–incredibly rare–and I admit I would have had a much harder time with it. I feel just as you do, that we are one, and that humans are not the apogee of creation (far from it), but the rescuer in me might not have been able to be so hands-off. Thank you. I wept unashamedly many times during the film: your goodbyes, Connor’s death, and Tupelo’s. Also, when you and Judy got together, tears of joy. You are good people, and I will read your books and your blog and feel you are kindred souls, something I need in these strange days.

  14. Patricia Buttimer Says:

    I try to watch at least one real life documentary a week. Recently watched yours & your wife’s– “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Then by chance found your blog. Looking forward to your new book– Street Song. Just wanted to drop a line to say really enjoyed the film, and now your blog. Thanks for your openness. Sincerely, Patricia Buttimer

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