Urban flight: Wild parrots move to suburbs

It’s no great migration, but some of the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill have taken a liking to the quiet, suburban life of Brisbane.

The birds, cherry-headed conures made famous by the book and subsequent documentary film, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” have spent the last several weeks in the branches of Brisbane trees, providing locals with a respite from the end-of-summer doldrums.

It also appears that this is the farthest south the birds have ever traveled.

Diane Cannon has lived in Brisbane for 38 years and she has never seen anything like the parrots in Brisbane, saying she is used to seeing raccoons, skunks and opossums run around in her backyard.

“Everybody’s kind of in awe of them,” Cannon said.

Ron Davis, a local real estate agent and resident, said the birds arrived two to three weeks ago, appearing in the morning in the oak trees by his house. He said as a real estate agent, he is always trying to convince people that they have good weather in Brisbane — these tropical-looking birds, he said, might help convince some prospective buyers.

“Maybe the fact these guys show up is confirming the fact that we do have good weather here,” Davis said.

The parrots are native to Ecuador and Peru and arrived in The City when people could import them legally into the U.S., according to the Web site of author Mark Bittner, who wrote the book, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” On his site, he said the colony began when the birds were either released by their owners or escaped and has grown to an estimated 200 birds.

They have been known to migrate from their perch in the Ferry Plaza to Fort Mason and even farther to the Presidio and Laurel Heights. The farthest south the birds had flown looking for food was Visitacion Valley and Crocker Amazon neighborhoods, according to Bittner’s site.

Davis said the birds are “completely different than the blue jays” Brisbane typically has and make a “distinct racket.” The novelty, however, “may wear off.” “If there were many more of them they could become a nuisance,” Davis said. “Now, they’re cool.”

dsmith@examiner.com

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