City may ban feeding of parrots

Feeding the famed wild parrots of Telegraph Hill could become illegal, because bird advocates are worried that the handouts jeopardize the flock’s health and safety while making them susceptible to bird-nappers.

During the last year and half, the popularity of feeding the colorful parrots at Ferry Park near the Embarcadero — where the birds roost in the trees — has increased. This surge in popularity worries Mark Bittner, who made the parrots world famous by writing “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” and co-starring in a documentary film of the same name.

After learning of the concerns of Bittner and other bird advocates, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, whose district includes Ferry Park, introduced legislation that would amend the police code to prohibit feeding the parrots, technically known as red-masked parakeets, at all city parks. The City’s police code prohibits feeding wild birds on any sidewalk, streets or highway.

The feeding of the parrots brings them in close contact with all sorts of people. “Who has explained to the parrots that you can’t trust all people?” Bittner said. “I think one bird has been captured. We don’t know for sure. The idea that nobody would try, to me, is ludicrous.”

Bittner is also concerned about what would happen if a bird injured one of the feeders. “They’re wild and parrots do bite and they bite hard and they will go for your eyes. If they damage some child’s eye … the parents are going to sue The City,” he said.

Judy Irving, who directed and produced the popular documentary, said the feeding “could be harmful for them, because if they get too used to a huge supply of sunflower seeds once a day down at Ferry Park — which they are getting used to now — they may lose their adaptability to forage throughout The City.” It is estimated there are 200 parrots in the flock.

Some feeders of the birds said the ban was unwarranted. Alexander Bantov, who owns a nearby restaurant, said he does not think the feeding is a threat and that the joy it brings people far outweighs any reason to prohibit it.

The Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services approved the legislation on Thursday and the full board is expected to vote on it in two weeks.

jsabatini@examiner.com


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