Feathers on the Roof

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A new couple has moved into my building.

It's a small building in San Francisco's Castro. I've seen all kinds come and go in this building. Dot com zillionaires, artists, hipsters, porn actors. We've had same-sex couples, opposite-sex couples, five leather-clad bandmates sharing one apartment. A trip in the elevator can feel like a short visit to Burning Man. But even by these standards, this new couple is different.

They seem devoted to each other, and they're pretty reliable. I notice them together around the same time each morning and evening.

But they don't mix much with the other tenants, and I don't think they're paying rent. Oh, and they're green with red heads. And they're about a foot tall.

Yes, they are parrots.


A few months ago, they moved onto the roof. We figure they're part of the well-known feral parrot population of San Francisco. Nobody is sure how these parrots ended up in San Francisco from their habitat of the Andes Mountains of South America. Theories range from abandoned pets to an urban legend of a mass escape from a burning pet store. The wild parrots landed celebrity status thanks to a 2005 documentary. I didn't see the movie, and never imagined I'd be living with two of the stars.

But they're not bad neighbors. A little noisy, but their occasional screeches are not as bad as some of the music my human neighbors pound. They don't take up a parking spot, or monopolize the Homeowner's Association meetings.

And the roof over my head could be under their feet for a long time. Parrots live up to 35 years, and they mate for life, which is more than I can say for a lot of the other residents of this building. It's no coincidence that the famously faithful lovebird is actually a species of parrot.

Not everyone is delighted with our squawking squatters, though. There is talk about diseases in bird droppings and expensive damage. The couple might start a family, and do we really want a non-stop rooftop parrot party?

So, we may end up calling the humane bird removal service and evicting them. But until they go, I'm enjoying sharing my roof with these feathered freeloaders. And sometimes, on a foggy, gray San Francisco morning, amid the concrete and pavement, I watch the two of them swoop joyfully off my roof, all flashes of bright green and cherry red, and suddenly, for just a moment, I am transported to the jungles of the Amazon.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.