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Groups Rally To Support Telegraph Hill Parrots

full article: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=local&id=5093613

Mar. 5 - Advocates for San Francisco's iconic parrots of Telegraph Hill will show their support for legislation protecting the birds' habitat at a Land Use Committee hearing today.

The birds, who were longtime local celebrities, gained international fame in Judy Irving's 2003 documentary "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." The film chronicles the flock's friendship with formerly homeless musician Mark Bittner.

But in October of 2005, the owner of a property adjacent to Bittner's North Beach cottage cut down three of five Monterey cypress trees that provide the birds a perch from which to watch for predators. Bittner managed to save the remaining two trees by standing between the trees and the chainsaws, and negotiations began for the protection of the habitat.

At today's hearing, committee members will review legislation proposed by San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty that would protect the birds' home near the Greenwich Steps.

Mat Thomas, spokesman for In Defense of Animals, said his organization would present committee members with a petition of support bearing more than 4,400 signatures.

"The parrots are a great part of the identity of our city. They're the poster children of urban wildlife," Thomas said. "We're in support of Bevan Dufty's legislation so that parrots can have their habitat in the area and hopefully maintain their relationship with Mark Bittner."

The proposed law would provide for the pruning and maintenance of the two surviving cypress trees, mandate the planting of up to six new parrot-friendly trees and protect the landowner from legal liability if dying trees fall before they can be replaced. The Northeast San Francisco Conservancy has raised about $5,000 from donations to pay an arborist to prune and preserve the trees until new ones can be planted.

"This is something anybody can get behind, whether you're an animal protection advocate or whether you're an average citizen living in or visiting the city," Thomas said, adding that the landowner is amenable to the proposed legislation as well.

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