How to (reliably) find the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

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Oh, the famous Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill–cool enough to have their own Yelp Page, yet elusive enough that, in spite of having been in and out of San Francisco repeatedly, I’ve never seen them before. Even Mark Bitters, the man who made them famous through his book and documentary, isn’t quite sure how to consistently see them in spite of studying them for years.

Good news for bird watchers, though:

Follow this guide and I bet I can get you pretty darn close.

Naturally, my status of ‘crazy bird lady’ meant that I just had to find them on a recent impromptu trip to San Francisco. Knowing a thing or two about parrots helped; I spent the day looking for them, knowing all along certain things would help. Shockingly, if I’d paid attention to my own wisdom, I could’ve spent the majority of the day doing something else… fortunately, you get to learn from my mistakes. 😀

Locals suggested wandering up and down the steps between Greenwich Road, Levi’s Plaza, and Coit Tower, but “no guarantees”.

Parrots are pretty active during the day; they travel in flocks, moving frequently, meaning you’re way less likely to see them randomly when you’re not looking. When you are looking to bird watch, how do you find them?

How to Find the Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Guide in Videos and Pictures

  1. Time of day matters. 

2. Location, location, location!

Start at Levi’s Plaza and work your way up the steps to Coit Tower.

Or, you know, just drive and park at Coit Tower. I just think the hike up is lovely, and you’re more likely to catch the parrots if you walk.

Levi’s Plaza is a great place to start–the starting point is too low for the birds to consistently appear (in my opinion), but head up the stairs towards Coit tower, and you’re in for a gorgeous hike, and a great way to get oriented to the surrounding area!

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Take the stairs you see here. Make your way up to Coit tower.

Once at Coit Tower, you’ll want to locate the side paths that are about fifteen-twenty feet off the main parking area; I started by heading toward Green Street and circling that pathway.

3. Follow your ears. Parrots are LOUD. You will hear them (and some crows and/or ravens) long before you see them.

4. Be patient and keep walking. If you follow your ears, you’ll eventually find them!

In a Nutshell:

-Make sure wander the paths around Coit Tower about an hour before sundown, or shortly after sunrise!

-Where there are ravens roosting, so too will you likely find parrots. Ravens are the kings and queens of Coit Tower, so they’ll be chilling in the trees around the center; the parrots will be flying the side paths ten to fifteen feet from the center.

-Be patient and be ready to walk. The parrots will only stay in the trees for a few minutes before darting away.

-Bring binoculars. They’re hard to see, especially if you’re blind like I am!

If all else fails, locals are correct about finding parrots at/around Embarcadero park; there seems to be a popular roost at sundown in a tree at the intersection at Clay & Davis, which I stumbled upon quite by happy accident as I wandered back to my hotel. Visit at sundown (after the sun has dipped below the horizon, but before it’s totally dark), and you will probably get lucky!

A cat wanted to be petted during my hike!
Check out the local wildlife.
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