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Parrot's easy banter makes feathers fly

Ryan's pitch so upsets a neighbor that the man complained to Cambridge's License Commission. Ryan's pitch so upsets a neighbor that the man complained to Cambridge's License Commission.

Ryan is the friendly sort, always saying hello, often whistling at neighbors on their way to work or construction workers just arriving. You might say he's a social butterfly.

Butterfly he's not, however. Ryan is an African grey parrot, and he has ruffled some Cantabrigian feathers with his friendly wolf whistles. He has caused enough tension that his owner feels compelled to move come spring.

"I don't want to go through this again," said Helen Levich, who has owned Ryan for nine years. "We've pledged not to open the windows, so we'll be OK through the winter, but it's too hot in here to do that beyond the winter."

Levich's yard near Porter Square abuts that of Douglas Kornfeld, a sculptor who says he has a sensitivity to this particular bird's vocal pitch. Last summer, when Kornfeld began to be bothered by Ryan's whistles and catcalls, he and Levich tried to resolve the issue. When it wasn't resolved to his satisfaction, Kornfeld went to the Cambridge License Commission to complain of a noise violation.

All the flap over Ryan took Levich by surprise. "He's lived with us for nine years, no problem, no complaints," she said. Not even in thin-walled apartments in shared complexes. "We never thought someone could be bothered by him," she said.

Ryan, a fan of pistachio nuts and Milky Way bars who can often be seen perched on Levich's shoulder on bicycle rides to Danehy Park, is pigeon pewter with crimson tail feathers and a sharp yellow eye. He has a loud wolf whistle and can imitate doorbells and the sounds made by his squeaky toys, but Levich had trouble believing his squawks and beeps could even be heard above the construction at Kornfeld's home over the summer.

Kornfeld, who could not be reached for comment, told the License Commission that the bird's noise interrupted him so much he could no longer work at home or have dinner with his wife on their back porch. The problem came before the commission in September, and Levich's landlord faced a $300-a-day fine if it wasn't resolved by the end of October. Levich's pledge to keep Ryan inside with the windows shut closed the case. For now.

Levich said she took an informal survey of her neighbors, most of whom had positive things to say about Ryan.

One neighbor even offered to rent an apartment to her when the time comes to move. And move they will.

"There is no question we'll have to move," she said. "We don't want Doug to go through this again, nor us. We were not matched in heaven, them and us."

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