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325 live birds found in Aurora hoarder’s home

Dave Skeberdis brings first his birds out for people Greater Chicago Cage Bird Club take their storefront VillPark Friday October

Dave Skeberdis brings the first of his birds out for the people of the Greater Chicago Cage Bird Club to take to their storefront in Villa Park on Friday, October 26, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 29, 2012 6:26AM

AURORA — Workers wearing hazmat suits, rubber boots and masks removed more than 300 birds from an Aurora townhome Friday.

The city served bird hoarder Dave Skeberdis, 57, with a court order authorizing the city to remove the hundreds of birds from his townhouse in the 200 block of Shadybrook Lane on the city’s far East Side.

Seven crew members collected 325 live birds from the home in six hours on Friday, according to city spokesman Kevin Stahr. The birds appear to be in good condition.

The birds were turned over to the Greater Chicago Cage Bird Club, where they are being housed in a storefront at 19 W. Park in Villa Park for a 30- to 60-day quarantine period. The birds have been exposed to poor air quality conditions, said Barbara Morris, bird club spokesman.

“It’s not a case of cruelty. It’s a case of too much love,” she said.

Hazmat operation

Stahr also said 120 dead birds were removed from the home Friday. The birds died prior to the city contractor entering the home. They were given to Aurora Animal Control for proper disposal.

The city’s contractor, Restoration Techs, entered the home at 10 a.m. Friday. Crews covered the front entrance of the home with a black tarp and had air scrubbers working in the home.

The contractor found 40 live birds on the home’s second floor, 28 on the first floor and 257 in the basement. Birds found in the home included parakeets, cockatiels, conures, canaries, doves and finches.

The homeowner’s possessions, trash and other debris were moved around in the home but not removed during the bird rescue operation, according to Deputy Fire Chief John Lehman. Debris in the stairwells of the home were three-feet deep and packed tightly, he said.

City officials confirmed that the electricity and heat are functioning in the townhouse.

Counseling offer

City officials said Skeberdis was cooperative Friday, and chose not to be present during the removal process.

“I’m sure it’s a very emotional process for him,” Lehman said.

Morris said the bird club has promised Skeberdis they will not adopt out his conures, which he said are like his children. The club will work with Skeberdis to allow him to keep those six to eight birds.

“We hope that through counseling that his problems will be addressed,” Morris said.

Neighbors understanding

Now that the birds have been removed from the home, the barricades have been cleared from Shadybrook Lane, and the city has turned the property back over to the homeowner. The city plans to re-inspect the home Friday, because the homeowner was previously cited for two property code violations, Stahr said.

Neighbor Chuck Stack said it’s the second hoarder case on his block in the past two years. Another neighbor was a hoarder, too, he said.

“I have a lot of compassion for hoarders. It’s not that infrequent,” said Stack’s wife, Virginia Stack, a mental health counselor. “It’s a mental illness. We don’t blame (Skeberdis).”

City crews were called to the bird hoarder home last week after a painting contractor working outside the home noticed several dead birds inside and called police. Aurora Animal Control and city inspectors deemed the property unfit for habitation, contacted the homeowner and received a search warrant for the property.

Skeberdis, employed in the information technology field, said he can now understand that his bird collecting is out of control. He said he is from a family of hoarders.

“I think it’s time for a change in my life,” Skeberdis said earlier this week.

Skeberdis, who is not married, acquired his first bird seven years ago. While working in computer support at United Airlines, he “rescued” a parakeet, and later named the bird “Doc.”

“I saved his life, and he saved mine,” Skeberdis said.

Over time, he bought and adopted more birds.

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