HULL — The future of an 18-inch bird feeder has sparked a squall in this South Shore village.
The dispute, pitting Hull enforcement agencies against a 70-year-old, bird-loving oceanside resident, unfolded in Brockton Housing Court Tuesday, as neighbors testified that the woman’s hanging bird feeder has wreaked havoc on the oceanfront neighborhood.
The impassioned hearing, which lasted three hours, included stories of frenzied birds, depictions of splattered droppings, and an accusation of bullying.
“While some of you folks may try to trivialize why we’re here today, saying it’s only a matter of feeding some birds . . . the defendant has been feeding the birds in such a way as to create a health hazard and a public nuisance,” said James Lampke, the attorney for the town.
The hearing is scheduled to continue Monday, when witnesses testifying on behalf of the city will continue their testimony. Gail Kansky, owner of the bird feeder, is also set to take the stand that day. If Housing Court Judge Wilbur Edwards sides with the town, a temporary restraining order will force Kansky to remove the bird feeder that hangs about 15 feet off her second-floor porch.
At her sun-bleached home with a pristine ocean view and decorated with dozens of jars of sea glass she collected herself, Kansky seemed at a loss to understand the flap.
“There are plenty of other people in Hull who have bird feeders, there are plenty of other people in Massachusetts that do,’’ said Kansky, who has summered at the Beach Avenue residence for nearly four decades. “It’s just ridiculous.’’
Kansky said she began feeding the birds two years ago, after the chronic fatigue syndrome she suffers from took a turn for the worse and she could no longer take long walks on the beach.
Tossing bread to seagulls, she said, was her way of bringing a little nature to her doorstep.
Last winter, she made trips from her home in Needham to keep feeding the birds. Neighbors and city officials squawked; in July, she reached an agreement with the town that she would cease feeding seagulls. The agreement allowed her to have one bird feeder.
The problem, Lampke said, is that birds have grown to identify Kansky’s house as prime feeding ground. They flock to telephone lines and rooftops surrounding Kansky’s residence, he said.
Neighbors testified that Kansky fills the cylinder to excess four or five times a day, causing seed to spill on the ground below, attracting rodents.
Kansky said she fills the feeder regularly so birds have multiple access points, thereby cutting down on fighting between birds and incessant flapping.
In court, neighbors described scenes reminiscent of “The Birds,” with pigeons and sparrows gathering in throngs, thrashing in the air when startled, dive-bombing piles of seed on the ground, cooing at all hours, and creating a splattery mess.
Lampke circulated photos as evidence.
One neighbor, Alice Whelan, 71, said bird droppings fill her gutter, requiring her to hose down her porch furniture nearly every day.
John MacKinnon, 65, told the judge the birds were “terrorizing” neighbors and passersby.
He can no longer use his back deck because of the abundance of bird feces, and it is difficult to have a conversation outside because of the excessive squawking, MacKinnon said.
“The birds come onto my property all day — back porch, front porch,” MacKinnon said. “I have absolutely no animus against the Kanskies. I’m just at wits’ end and totally frustrated.”
Lampke said that if Kansky removes the feeder and the birds cease gathering, it may be possible for her to restore the feeder in the future.
Kansky’s attorney, David Grossack, questioned how neighbors and the town can be sure that Kansky’s house is attracting the birds.
Avian wildlife, Grossack argued, is part of beachfront living.
“When you live in Hull and live near the beach, you have to be exposed to birds quite a bit, isn’t that true?” Grossack asked.
And Kansky is not the only member of the neighborhood with an interest in attracting birds to the neighborhood, Grossack said.
One of Kansky’s next-door neighbors also has a bird feeder.
Even MacKinnon has a bird bath in his yard, he admitted during cross-examination.
“You don’t know for sure what’s attracting them, do you?” Grossack asked Whelan.
“Oh, yes I do,” Whelan snapped back. “I’d bet money on it.”
Grossack aimed a slew of accusations at Kansky’s next-door neighbor, Lindsey Tosches, 34, who admitted that the two families have disagreed over building a fence between the two properties. She also conceded her family used a hose to spray birds gathered in front of the two homes.
Kansky’s attorney hinted there could be even darker motivations at work, which Tosches vehemently denied.
“This is not a case about birds. This is a case about bullying,” Grossack said.
“Absolutely not,” Tosches said.
Kansky said even if the case comes back in the town’s favor, she will not remove the bird feeder.
“It’s worth it if you stick up for what you believe in,” Kansky said.Martine Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.