Budgies worth £60,000 stolen from Hampshire breeder
More than 400 budgies, worth more than £60,000, have been stolen from a breeder's home.
Thieves cut wires to security lights before breaking into the locked aviary in Romsey, Hampshire, between 22:00 BST on Sunday and 04:45 Monday.
Police said the budgerigars were stolen in special transportation cages that belonged to 74-year-old Mick Freeborn. Only one was left behind in a cage.
A 25-year-old man held in connection with the theft has been bailed.
Police believe the thieves escaped with the birds through a golf course that runs behind the property in Upton Crescent.
'Unlikely to survive'
"The victim has been building up the extensive collection for more than 50 years," said a Hampshire Constabulary spokesman.
"Officers think it is likely more than one person was involved and it would have needed a van or something or a similar-size vehicle to take the birds away.
"All the birds have rings on their legs with serial numbers on."
No birds have been recovered and the one left behind will probably not survive without her flock, Mr Freeborn said.
Seventeen of the stolen birds were "top class exhibition birds" and he believes they were stolen to order.
He said: "Devastating is an understatement.
"I will never be able to reproduce this. If I get the birds back, they won't be any good. Their stress values will be too terrible, and they're not fed properly.
"I think it's an end of a lifetime career as far as I'm concerned."