Canary thieves went by boat across a canal to raid a Derbyshire aviary at night.
They broke a lock, jammed 12 birds in three small cages and made the perilous journey back across the Erewash Canal.
They made the bizarre approach because bird fancier John White has tight security at the front of his Ilkeston home.
“The police said it was a dangerous thing to do at night but they agree that is what they did. You can see marks on the bank and there was canal sludge inside the shed.
“They got into one shed and tried to get into the other but failed,” said Mr White, 61, of Charles Close. He discovered the theft last Thursday, January 28, and had checked the birds the night before.
Mr White has been keeping birds since becoming interested in the hobby through his father Maurice. Just before Christmas, he spent £250 on a collection of birds and many of these have gone.
He said: “I will recognise them again. It may sound odd but that’s one of the things we do.
“I used to raise pigeons and could look down at them feeding and say ‘that’s not one of mine.’ You just know which ones are yours.”
One missing canary is all white. Another is variegated white and grey while another bird is grey, a colouring known as “blue” to enthusiasts. Some have splashes of green among their yellow feathers while others have the usual bright yellow colour.
The raiders left some zebra finches and Bengalese finches as well as some doves, which would have proved difficult to capture.
Mr White is now touring livestock markets and bird shows in search of his missing canaries. He has also put out an alert among fellow members of the Erewash Valley Bird Club and another society, which meets regularly at Underwood Miners’ Welfare. He has also contacted other lovers of the hobby who are not in local clubs.
“Each canary had its own cage and it would be easy to put your hand in and catch each one. It was not right putting 12 in three cages,” added Mr White, who works as a dry liner.
He now plans to step up security and is keen to hear from anyone who has been offered canaries in suspicious circumstances - or who heard of a boat being used to cross the canal. Anyone with information should call Derbyshire police on 101.