Aurora bird hoarder: ‘I was obsessed’
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org October 22, 2012 6:20PM
After the city of Aurora condemned his home on Friday, Dave, who didn't want to share his last name, works on cleaning his garage on Monday, October 22, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 22, 2012 8:20PM
AURORA — Outside of his far East Side townhome Monday, Dave Skeberdis admitted right away: “I am a hoarder.”
“I did let the birds multiply. I admit, I was obsessed,” he said. “But I’m a regular person.”
Skeberdis, 57, estimated that there are 200 birds of varying species inside his townhome in the 200 block of Shadybrook Lane. He returned to the home Monday to feed the birds.
“It’s condemned, but they can’t stop me from going into the house,” he said. “I don’t really want to lose them, but this is too many birds.”
City crews were called to the 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.
On Monday, Skeberdis, who is 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.
He said he has arranged to spend the next two weeks cleaning up the home he was living in until Friday.
Cleanup crews gave Skeberdis a hazmat suit and mask, and a dumpster is parked on the street outside of his home. He’s had asthma for four years, he said, but the birds don’t exacerbate his illness.
“Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten used to it,” he said. “(Crews) told me I’m going in at my own risk.”
Skeberdis, who is not married, acquired his first bird seven years ago, he said, on April 15, 2005. 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.
Those birds include a Chinese Quail named “Demon,” blind bird “Longstreet” and scalped bird “Liz Cojack,” and a white baby parakeet he hand-fed and once carried to work with him in a briefcase.
Meanwhile, his collection of parakeets, especially, were multiplying. And the hoarding clutter in his house, “kept me from investigating too much.”
“Parakeets multiply like mice,” he said.
Periods of illness and overtime at work kept him preoccupied, too, Skeberdis said.
He said he’s tried to keep the birds in cages, but the conures, who he said are especially smart and mischievous, would let the other birds out of their cages.
When Skeberdis thought he might lose his house to the bank, he let the birds destroy the drywall, he said. He’s saved a few birds by resuscitation, he said.
“I feel like a custodian of them, not an owner,” Skeberdis said.
Maintaining the bird collection is expensive, too. He goes through two or three 50-pound bags of birdfeed each week.
During a financially difficult time, his power was shut off. There have been at least one “mass death” of the birds, Skeberdis said.
He said Monday he hopes to keep at least all of his conures.
“The conures are like my children,” he said. “When they were little, they slept in bed with me.”
City awaits lab results
The city estimates the number of birds to be in the hundreds. City spokesman Dan Ferrelli said garbage, junk and bird feces litter the home.
Animal Control has made arrangements to have the birds checked by a veterinarian and transferred to the Greater Chicago Caged Bird Club rescue group once they are removed from the home.
The city performed no work at the house over the weekend as it awaits results of tests on air quality at the home. No code violations or criminal charges will begin until the birds are removed from the home and the investigation progresses.
Air quality samples were dropped off at a lab by a private contractor on Friday and were forwarded to Phoenix, Ariz. for additional analysis.
Deputy Fire Chief John Lehman said late Monday that they expected to receive lab results early Tuesday.