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Parrot Takes Town Center

"Driving" his truck through the Reston Town Center, local bird is becoming a legend.

Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superbird? OK, so he doesn't fly, but he likes to drive. And though his gray wings are clipped, this local legend is known to wear a Superman costume, complete with billowy red cape. His name is Cody and he is quickly developing somewhat of a cult following in and around the Reston Town Center. A 10-year-old Congo African Gray parrot, Cody, the skate board-riding, monster truck-driving exotic pet is a common, albeit peculiar, sight to anyone who has wandered through the center's promenade recently.

"He's a community asset and he makes people happy," said Bruce Kay of Reston, who stopped to see Cody as he sat in a tree overlooking his owners. "The kids and adults all flock to him. What's not to like?"

One of Cody's owners, Reston resident Jim Moran, no relation to the congressman, is as surprised as anyone at the local lore developing around his feathered friend. Cody is even the topic of discussion on a local Internet message board, he said. "I certainly never thought he'd become famous," the bird owner said. Moran, who runs his own video, sound and light company, is also a regular Town Center visitor. As a freelancer, Moran sometimes has the luxury of bringing his office, a portable laptop computer, outdoors. Invariably, Moran heads to an table in Reston Town Center, Cody in tow.

"It's a comfortable and fun place," he said, speaking as much for himself as he was for his bird. "Cody prefers the shade and he likes hanging out in the trees. He especially loves the music at the concerts."

And the town center visitors love the attention-grabbing Cody. Arlene Brecher, a bird lover herself, says she looks forward to strolling though the promenade and seeing Cody riding around on his truck or "talking" up in his favorite tree. "I worry if he isn't here," she said, stopping to say hello to the bird in the Superman costume.

Most similar parrots live to be about 75 years old, so Cody has many years ahead of him to entertain Reston.

"CODY'S VERY SMART," Moran said. "He'll put his head down and ask for a tickle and he will continue to ask for a tickle until we tickle him. When we leave the house without him, he will say, 'Bye-bye, see you later.'"

From a dog's bark to a rooster's crow and a cell phone ring to the beeping of a UPS truck in reverse, Cody can make all sorts of noises to entertain, confuse or annoy all those around him, Moran said.

Growing up, Moran's grandmother had parakeets but he was never allowed to touch them. So 10 years ago, during a severe snow storm, Moran and Cody's other owner Bob Sledzaus bought the bird from a local exotic bird dealer.

"He's a great friend," said Sledzaus. "I never had any idea how affectionate a bird could be before we got Cody."

Whether he realizes it or not, Cody also has a sense of humor, his owners say. One day while Cody was resting in a town center tree, he gave a construction worker-like whistle to a pretty woman as she walked past. Unfortunately for an older gentleman sitting in a bench underneath the parrot, the woman thought the whistle came from him. "He was embarrassed to say the least," Sledzaus said, laughing. "She gave that old man the dirtiest look."

SLEDZAUS SAID HE and Moran didn't plan to make their pet into a local legend. "It just sort of evolved that way," he said. "I get a lot of pleasure from seeing kids enjoying themselves with Cody."

Moran and Sledzaus like to take their dog, Harley, out for hikes along the Maryland side of the Potomac. A few years ago, the two decided to bring Cody along, as well. Rather than carrying him on their shoulders for three and four hours, Moran, a self-described "gadget-freak" rigged up a remote control car for Cody to ride in while Moran and Sledzaus hiked along the hilly trails. It allows Cody to keep up with us, Moran said. It worked.

"He likes it because he can go fast," Moran said.

Since then, Cody, whose wings are clipped, has continued to take to four-wheeling, be it a custom-designed remote control skateboard, a miniature Army tank or a mini-monster truck. "If he is not in the mood to ride, he won't," Moran said, responding to those who say he is exploiting his bird. "He'll just hop off if he doesn't want to ride."