These birds are native to Ecuador and Peru, but showed up in San Francisco's Telegraph Hill neighbourhood in the 1980s. From a population of only four birds, they began to settle and breed in the city in large numbers.
They also attracted the attention of Mark Bittner an unemployed musician who was eking out his living as a caretaker in one of the Telegraph Hill’s historic, crumbling cottages. He was smitten with these colourful, noisy birds and started observing them closely. He published a book about these parrots in 2004 and in 2005 a film was made based on it, which catapulted Bittner and the parrots into popularity and the public eye.
As people became more aware of these parrots, it also created some controversy. Since they were non-native species which can potentially threaten the native birds, conservationists argued that the flock should be removed. But people of San Francisco fought to keep the parrots intact, arguing that they were an important part of the city's culture and history. Ultimately, they prevailed, and the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill can be seen both in their home territory and all over the city as they scurry around for food.
Parrots figure prominently in Sangam literature. They are vividly described in many poems. One of them even mentions about a parrot with red neck band! They reside in Kurinji thinai, (mountain and adjoining lands) where they come in droves to eat clusters of millet in the fields. The heroine and her friend who are sent by the family, chase the birds, using the rattles and other noisy implements. The parrots also provide an excuse for the heroine to meet the hero secretly, without the knowledge of the family.
For instance, in Ainkurunuru (meaning five hundred short poems) which are generally dated from about the late 2nd-to-3rd-century-CE, Kapilar, the poet describes the how the parrots have given an opportunity for the man to meet the lover of his life.
வெள்ள வரம்பின் ஊழி போகியும்
கிள்ளை வாழிய பலவே, ஒள் இழை
இரும்பல் கூந்தல் கொடிச்சி
பெருந்தோள் காவல் காட்டியவ்வே.
May the parrots live longer even after trillions and trillions of eons!
They are the reason that the lady from the mountains with long black hair and big shoulders, wearing glistening jewels came to watch over the grains.
On the World Parrot Day let us hope that these colourful avian species live long and bing cheer int our lives!
The parrots would like to hear from you...here!