Two men and two women have been detained in connection with the thefts of exotic birds -- worth more than $5,000 -- from three suburban pet shops earlier this week.
The four were caught after a manager at the Petland in Wheaton saw them enter the store and recognized them from surveillance footage from an alleged theft at another store.
Sara Marshinski, sales manager at the Wheaton Petland, said she saw the four walk into the store around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday -- a day after thefts at stores in Naperville and Batavia and long after word of the thefts had made the news.
It appears the first theft happened about 9 p.m. Monday in Bolingbrook at the Petland Aquarium Adventure, at 744 E. Boughton Rd., said Lt. Mike Rompa. But the store's owners didn't realize the bird was missing until they were notified by the Naperville Petland of a theft at their store on Tuesday.
In the Bolingbrook theft, video surveillance showed a woman removing a Blue Quaker Parrot, valued at $500, from a petting cage and placing it inside her purse on Monday evening, Rompa said. Police believe the woman had two lookout men with her.
Yet another theft happened sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. Tuesday at Bird is The Word, at 30 S. Shumway Ave. in Batavia, said Det. Kevin Bretz.
Two people distracted the owner, Sally Haugk, and a short time later Haugk said she noticed that the birds were missing. The birds were a white belly caique and a green cheek conures, with a combined value of $1,650, according to Batavia police.
"One of the birds is very young and will die if not taken care of properly," Haugk told NBC Chicago via e-mail.
While police aren't certain what the thieves plan to do with the birds, Bretz said in the past people have stolen and then tried to sell them to breeders or collectors, which was likely the motive this time.
A couple hours later, a young male rose breasted cockatoo was stolen from a Petland in Naperville, according to a release from the store.
At about 8:20 p.m., two men and two women entered the store and took the bird, named Joey, out of its enclosure and escaped, putting Joey in what was believed to be one of the women's purses.
The store captured the four on video surveillance camera, and contacted police and helpmefindmypet.com, an alert service for lost or stolen pets, the release said. Naperville police are reviewing the video, Naperville police Sgt. Gregg Bell said.
The Naperville store owner told police he has heard from other pet stores in the area that have reported birds being stolen by a gang of four matching the description of the suspects.
Joey is believed to be valued at close to $3,000, according to Bell.