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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 16, 2006

Bird Enthusiast/Author Mark Bittner Reads At Prairie Lights March 2

Writer, bird enthusiast and the subject of an award-winning film Mark Bittner will read from "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Love Story . . . with Wings," at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2 on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910.

The broadcast will originate in a free event hosted by birder Julie Englander in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

A review in the San Jose Mercury-News called the book "An inspirational saga of one man finding his life's meaning in the most serendipitous way."

Bittner was down on his luck. He'd gone to San Francisco at the age of 21 to take a stab at a music career, but he hadn't had much success. After many years as an odd-jobber in the area, he accepted work as a housekeeper for an elderly woman. The job came with a rent-free studio apartment on Telegraph Hill, which had somehow become home to a flock of brilliantly colored wild parrots.

Bittner recounts how he became fascinated by the birds and made up his mind to get to know them and gain their trust. He succeeded to such a degree that he became a tourist attraction and the subject of a documentary film that qualified for consideration in the "Best Feature Documentary" category in the 2003 Academy Awards.

A review in Publishers Weekly stated, "In this appealing, heartfelt account of one man's attempt to bond with wildlife, the author tells how he made friends with a flock of birds and in the process found meaning in his own life. . . . Because he found that each bird had its own personality, he named them according to their individual characteristics, and in this charming record of their activities, they seem almost human. At a time when he lived like a hermit, the birds brought him joy and became his only friends."

When a documentary filmmaker arrived on his doorstep, his personal history took an unexpected turn.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,