The Parrots of Telegraph Hill
Cherry-Headed Conures aren’t native to California. Bird watchers who want to see these parrots in their natural habitats must generally travel to South America. However, if you look into the trees or watch the skies of San Francisco, you are sure to spot some of the wild conures that make their home in the city.
There are a variety of legends that tell the tale of the wild parrots’ origins. In one version, a woman released the birds from an exotic pet store before burning it to the ground. It's more likely that the flock’s founding couple escaped or were released by pet owners who couldn’t keep up with such noisy and demanding companions. The two founding members of the flock produced dozens of chicks, and the group was joined by other escaped and released pets.
Originally, the birds were only found on or near Telegraph Hill. As the population expanded to more than 300, it split into smaller flocks that can be seen from the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero all the way to Brisbane, a city south of San Francisco.
To see them for yourself, start at the Embarcadero and walk down Greenwich Street to Pioneer Park. The parrots are often spotted along the pedestrian paths, and you can take in Coit Tower while you are there. You can also try Sue Bierman Park, which is in the opposite direction near the Ferry Building.
The parrots are in the city year-round, but they may be less visible during the summer breeding season. If you visit in September, you might spot some chicks coming out of the nest.
It’s best not to feed the wild parrots. First, the seeds and crumbs most people have on hand aren’t especially nutritious. These birds thrive on fruit, berries, and vegetables. Second, there are concerns that allowing the wild flocks to become accustomed to hand feeding from humans could put them in real danger.
For more birdwatching opportunities, visit The Presidio, where numerous species can be found.