In San Francisco: The Parrots' Hilton

(CBS)
John Blackstone is a CBS News correspondent based in San Francisco.
Just a few blocks from our office in San Francisco there is a small park that at 5:30 every afternoon starts to sound like a jungle. Amid the high rise office buildings, it's an incongruous sight as a couple of hundred red and green parakeets come in to land on the trees.

They are the birds that became famous in a book and documentary film as "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." The park isn't on Telegraph Hill but a couple of years ago the birds started spending the night here when trees in another park were cut down.

Last year some of the residents of apartment buildings nearby started feeding the parrots. The birds love sunflower seeds. Soon the park was busy with people holding out hands full of sunflower seeds and birds happily feasting, landing on hands and heads and shoulders. There were lots of smiles.

But the scene started to worry Mark Bittner, the man who made the birds famous in the first place. He is the author of "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill". He feared that if the birds came to depend on people they might have trouble making it on their own. He worried that people could kidnap the birds and take them as pets. So he pressed City Hall to pass a law making it illegal to feed the birds.

Actually the city police code already banned the feeding of birds in public parks but just to make it clear, the parrots have now been named specifically in the law. The police say they won't be making arrests, but they could start handing out warnings to people caught feeding the parrots.

As one parrot feeder noted, "everything that is fun is either fattening or illegal".

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.

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