Cockatoo at large in Brookline, and residents aren’t happy
From the day he took up residence at Shawna Payne’s Brookline apartment eight years ago, Dino had problems.
The puffy white cockatoo screeched like a dinosaur — hence the name — and once bit right through Payne’s uncle’s fingernail. In all his years in Payne’s little apartment on Pearl Street, Dino said just one word: “No.”
“He’s a troubled bird,” said Payne’s uncle, Darrell Williams, whose fingernail is still a little ragged from his row with Dino.
So when Dino flew away in July — Payne blames Williams for his escape — he did not soar gracefully, high into the firmament. Instead, he went straight to one of the toniest streets in Brookline (Abbottsford Road, number 6 on Boston magazine’s 2007 “If You Lived Here . . . You’d Never Want To Leave” list) and got to work terrorizing residents.
“This bird has an extraordinarily annoying screech,” said Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge and a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School. She said she first hoped to trap Dino and return him to Payne, but would now be satisfied with chasing him off for good.
The stretch of Abbottsford Road where Gertner lives is part of Brookline’s Graffam-McKay Local Historic District, and any design changes to properties require the sign-off of the local preservation commission.
Gertner’s home, an elegant blue-and-white Victorian, also happens to be the birthplace of Robert F. Kennedy. Without commission approval, Dino has spent the better part of three months gnawing on the woodwork.
“We called the animal control people in Brookline, we called the MSPCA — no one will trap the bird,” said Gertner. So, with Dino chewing up sections of the home that were recently repaired after winter damage, she took matters into her own hands.
First, Gertner left a bird cage open in the yard with food inside and a string to pull the door shut. Dino wasn’t interested, and squirrels ate all the food.
“We tried loud rock music — that works with most neighbors, but it didn’t do so well with him,” Gertner said.
She tried turning on the house alarm, letting it blare. The bird didn’t mind, and recently greeted a Gertner houseguest by shrieking outside the bedroom window at dawn. Classic Dino. This week, Gertner tried spraying him with a garden hose.
Some neighbors, she said, are worried that Dino, a Goffin’s cockatoo, native to Indonesia, won’t survive the winter outside.
“Candidly, we are no longer concerned about that,” Gertner said.
But not everyone in the neighborhood feels bullied by the bird.
Dino alighted in a tree outside Tai Ta’s house on Naples Road after escaping in July, flying out of a cage that Williams left sitting open in the yard under the mistaken assumption that Dino would get a little air and hop back inside.
Now Dino returns daily to Ta’s home, which is two houses behind Gertner’s. Ta said he’s given his wife the nickname “mother of parrot Dino, for feeding him three meals a day.”
Dino coos and eats the food that’s left for him. After finishing, he flies away “with a croaking sound as if saying ‘Thank you for the meal,’ ” said Ta, who is also an accomplished lawyer.
Corn is Dino’s favorite. “He uses one leg to eat,” Ta said, “like a person.”
Other efforts to trap Dino have been unsuccessful as well.
In August, after word got back to Pearl Street that there was a bird resembling Dino hanging around on the other side of town, Payne and Williams visited Ta, armed with Dino’s cage and a towel. Williams tried to toss the towel over Dino while he sat on a railing, but the cockatoo flapped away and landed in a nearby tree.
Looking down from the tree, as Payne and Williams pleaded with him to come back, Dino said the most ‘‘Dino’’ thing ever:
Payne left the cage there, and Ta has been hoping to lure him in ever since.
He plays music — Beethoven and the Beatles — because Payne told him Dino likes to dance. But except for one brief moment, too short to rush out and close the cage door, he has never been seen back inside.
“This guy parrot has declared his independence,” Ta said, “with his own life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
That is not music to Payne’s ears.
“He’s my favorite bird,” said Payne, who owns six others. “I love him to death.” She fears he won’t be caught before the first good freeze.
Payne described Dino as “very friendly,” but conceded that Dino doesn’t care to be touched, owing to a previous owner’s mistreatment.
“He’s a mean bird,” Williams said, and went inside.
On Tuesday, Dino was back at Ta’s house, perched in a tree. A neighbor walked by and asked whether that was a cockatoo up there; the neighbor had been telling people she saw one, and everyone thought she was nuts. Now she had proof that an exotic bird was indeed the district’s newest resident.
But Gertner, whose lovely home now features a hole in the siding big enough for critters to crawl through, said she’s run out of ideas for getting rid of him.
Shooting the bird is illegal, she said. He sits too high up on the house to grab him from a ladder.
“I’ve looked up to see if anyone has a pet pterodactyl,” Gertner said.
As Dino always says: No.