In her warm, welcoming, and eminently watchable film, Judy Irving follows a wild flock of cherry-headed conures through San Francisco. Her guide is Mark Bittner, a carefree musician who has made it his job to look after the startling parrots when hes not reading Beat poetry. Bittner gives the birds names and a place to recuperate when theyre sick; he keeps journals about their personalities and idiosyncrasies. In any other city, Bittner would be considered a work-shy eccentric, but in San Francisco, he has a home and a passion.
Like Bittner, the movie quietly convinces us that these birds are worth paying attention to. With a natural storytellers ease, Irving teases several narrative strands out of her material: Bittners landlords are planning changes, the city and the press take an interest in the flock, and hawks fly overhead, threatening the parrots. Bittner tells (and shows) the stories of individual birds: the tragic love story of Sophie and Picasso, Mingus, who prefers the indoors, and his favorite Connor, the temperamental blue-headed outsider.
Bittners charm, Irvings good humor, and the endlessly fascinating and beautiful birds make sure that Wild Parrots amply repays our attention. It is a loving portrait of a displaced flock of birds, a fascinating city, and a unique man.