4 arrested in alleged bird-theft spree

September 1, 2010 (WHEATON, Ill.)

Rare and expensive birds have recently been stolen from pet stores in Batavia, Naperville and Bolingbrook. Investigators believe the same four people may be responsible for all of the thefts.

Four people matching the descriptions given by store owners burglarized over the past two days were apprehended by police in Wheaton Wednesday afternoon outside a Petland store.

The owner of the Naperville Petland says he alerted his colleagues at the Wheaton store to be on the lookout for a group of 20-30-year-olds who Naperville Police say may be responsible for stealing a $3,300 red-breasted cockatoo out of the Naperville Petland Tuesday night at 8:08 p.m.

"They came in the store. They went over to the bird tree, and they took our rose-breasted cockatoo, and they took it off to the back corner, and after they left we noticed it was missing," said Adam Stachowiak, Petland Naperville.

It's a similar story to that told by Batavia's Sally Hauck.

Hauck has been running Bird is the Word since 1992 and treats the store's pets as her children. On Monday, a group matching the description of the Naperville suspects walked in and distracted her.

"They were touching and picking up the birds, and I told them not to do that," said Hauck.

The next thing she knew, one of her prized white-bellied caiques was missing. It is a $1,300 bird whose unmistakable cry to be fed is something that Hauck fears won't be heard by those that stole him.

"We get them when they're 3 weeks old and hand feed them four times a day," Hauck said, "and we play with them and watch them grow up -- we worry about them very much so -- now they're gone, they're like our kids."

Back at the Naperville Petland, the store owner says birds have to be out in the open.

"We like to keep them out so that all our customers can come in and handle them, it makes them better pets when they go home," said Stachowiak.

"I can't think about it, it tears my heart apart, because I don't know what they're doing with them," said Hauck. "I just hope we get them back."

Wheaton Police say the people apprehended at the Petland store in their town were detained by store employees. Naperville Police are taking over the investigation because no crime was committed in Wheaton.

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