NAPERVILLE, Ill. (STMW) – For the fourth time in less than a year, thieves have stolen exotic birds from a pet store in west suburban Naperville.
A man and a woman accompanied by two preschool-age children are suspected of taking a yellow shoulder Amazon parrot and two white-bellied caiques from the Petland store at 720 S. Route 59, opposite the Westfield Fox Valley shopping center in Aurora.
Store owners Mike Isaac and Adam Stachowiak confirmed the theft occurred between 4:40 and 5:05 p.m. Thursday. Both men were on the premises at the time, along with several employees.
The male customer — whom Stachowiak said acted in a calm and friendly manner — apparently smuggled the birds out of the shop one at a time inside his coat.
“They didn’t even throw up any red flags,” Stachowiak said Friday. “They were in the store about 25 minutes. The woman and kids played with our puppies, and (the man) took one bird out to the car and came back, and then took the second one out.”
“It was like nothing unusual,” Stachowiak said. “They weren’t rushing, they were taking their time. (The man) even played with a puppy before taking the third bird.”
Store security video cameras captured images of the man and woman, both of whom appeared to be white and wearing dark-colored coats. The man is balding and had what Stachowiak described as severe acne or a similar skin condition.
The children were a boy who appeared to be about 4 years old and a girl of about 2.
Stachowiak said the missing parrot, a female named Sophie, was hatched June 10. Her identification band number is fx183.
The caiques — a male named Fred and a female named Ethel — were hatched May 3 and have band numbers of fx6964 and fx6939, respectively. The three birds have a collective estimated value of $3,000.
Thieves have plundered the store four times this year and five times since March 2008, when two ex-employees conspired with a friend to steal a 2-month-old Pomeranian puppy.
A Naperville man now serving a lengthy federal prison sentence following a shootout with authorities in Indiana was charged with the Jan. 19 theft of a 7-month-old female macaw. Another man is awaiting trial for the May 27 theft of another macaw.
The most recent crime occurred Aug. 31, when a rose-breasted cockatoo was stolen. The quartet of thieves implicated in that case also were charged with stealing exotic animals from pet shops in Bolingbrook, Batavia and St. Charles. All are awaiting trial.
All of the animals taken in the seven thefts were recovered in good health and returned to their respective stores.
Isaac and Stachowiak recently shuttered the Petland shop they owned in Wheaton. Both seemed to be becoming increasingly frustrated by thieves.
“It’s unfortunate we live in a world of dishonest people,” Isaac said. “I can’t fathom what people think when they make the choice to steal a live animal.”
“But thieves are thieves, and this is what they do. You can only prevent theft to a certain degree, and we have to go about our business on a day-to-day basis.”
Parrots and other exotic birds are kept in cages but also need to be out in the open with daily human contact, Stachowiak said. “Here we’ve got 20 birds, and to get every single one out of the cage every day is impossible,” he said.
In order to effectively combat theft of the birds, “we’d have to put in a (special) room, and it’d have to be locked and you’d have to take (customer) IDs,” Stachowiak said. “And nobody wants to do that.”
“But this is obviously not working the way it’s supposed to, so some sort of change is likely,” Stachowiak said. The solution might involve having fewer birds for sale “or only carrying the large ones, and not the smaller ones that can be put under a coat.”
Witnesses to the theft or those who believe they have information about the man or woman were asked to call Naperville police at 630-420-6665.