A BIRD breeder is counting the cost after burglars broke into his aviary and stole more than 40 exotic birds.

Nigel Darley, 64, was asleep at his home in New Road, Tadley, last Thursday when thieves broke into outbuildings and stole birds and equipment worth around £2,000.

The haul included Mexican house finches, java sparrows, and Bengalese finches – all birds that Mr Darley, secretary of the Basingstoke and District Cage Bird Society, has kept and bred as a hobby. An egg incubator, a catching net and three cages were also taken.

The raiders cut a hole in the tall hedge of Mr Darley’s next-door neighbour to access a large cage where some of Mr Darley’s birds were kept. A bulb from a security light had also been removed.

It was Mr Darley’s next-door neighbour who raised the alarm on Friday morning.

He said: “I think it is someone who has come here legitimately before to look at the birds. They had it all worked out.

“When I saw the birds had gone, I felt numb. I had no feeling of emotion, although that might have been different if I had caught one of the thieves in the act.”

Mr Darley, who has kept birds for more than 50 years, said he will go to bird fairs to see if he can spot any of the stolen birds up for sale. He is now installing new locks and CCTV to secure his remaining birds.

PC Jindy Sokhi said: “It is believed that this is a targeted incident and that the offenders have knowledge of these birds.

“The offenders have been careful to leave behind birds which carry identification rings and have been very selective with respect of other stolen items such as incubation equipment, catch nets and cages to transport the animals.”

PC Sokhi urged people with aviaries to secure entry points with good locks and, where possible, to buy security lighting and fit door alarms.

Anyone with information can contact PC Sokhi, at Tadley police station, on 101, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.