There are only a handful of cities in the United States with it’s own flock of wild parrots…and San Francisco is one of them. There are two different feral parrot populations in San Francisco: the white-winged parakeets, who live on Potero Hill, and the cherry headed-conjures who live on Telegraph Hill. The latter is the focus of this post and were made famous by the documentary, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”
Where did the parrots come from? They were wild parrots that were captured in South America in the 1990’s, and then brought to San Francisco and sold as pets. Unfortunately, The parrots, being wild and all, did not make very nice pets…Some escaped, and others were deliberately released. There are now hundreds of wild parrots who have adapted to city life and made San Francisco their home.
The range of the cherry-headed conures is fairly wide in San Francisco, and not limited to Telegraph Hill. The hot spots we’ve discovered so far are around the Filbert Steps and the Embarcadero.
The Filbert Steps seem to be either a hit or miss, though every time we’ve gone during the day there have at least been parrots AROUND and heard loud and clear. Sometimes they are really close and numerous. Other times there are few of them and are far and high.
With or without the parrots, the Filbert Steps are an experience that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are A LOT of steps, though if you’ve ever lived on a top floor apartment or have walked up the steps at St Peter’s Basilica, you probably won’t think much of it. The steps are considered the most beautiful in the city. They climb up Telegraph Hill and eventually end at Coit Tower. Climbing up you go past secret gardens and beautiful old homes, and sometimes FLOODS of hummingbirds who can be equally as noisy as the parrots! The views of the city both on the steps and at the top are incredible. You can see pretty much everything from there. If you have $5 and feel like being a tourist (or are a tourist), you can go up the elevator in the Coit Tower and go to the top for a 360 degree view of San Francisco. Though the views from the bottom of the tower are nearly as amazing.
To get to the Filbert Steps, take MUNI F to Embarcadero & Sansome Street. The steps are at Filbert Street and there should be some signs leading you in the right direction.
If you miss the parrots at the steps, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see them at dusk at the small parks in the Embarcadero, between Drumm and Clay St. Around sunset, you’ll see flocks of parrots going there to roost for the night. They’re sometimes way high up in the trees, so bringing binoculars is recommended. Usually they’re making all kinds of noise and fly around, but if there’s a hawk around they tend to remain silent and still. To get to the parks, take the BART to the Embarcadero. There are signs in the BART station that point you in the right direction.
The parrots are really a gem and they are so adorable. My all-time favorite thing about San Francisco.