Exotic pigeons stolen

September 04, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Bird thieves struck for a second time at a private aviary in Willow Hill in northwestern Franklin County, taking 122 different species of exotic pigeons worth more than $20,000, according to Pennsylvania State Police.

The theft of the birds occurred between 9 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday, police said.

More than 300 pigeons valued at more than $8,000 were stolen in March from the same aviary, owned by Paul Urban, 64.

Those birds have not been recovered despite a $5,000 reward Urban offered for information leading to their return.

Urban said he is increasing the reward to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves who this time took a variety of birds, including extremely rare species imported from Romania and Spain. Those birds had an estimated value of $600 a pair, he said.


"I sleep now in a van with a shotgun. Anybody who comes near my birds I will shoot and kill them," said an angry Urban.

The pigeon owner said he believes the thieves parked their vehicle off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and climbed over a 3.5-foot fence onto his property.

They were able to get inside the coop, cutting the wire bird cages and locks, despite security lights, fences and a German shepherd that Urban placed on the property after the first theft.

"From a shotgun, they can't get away. If I go to jail, I go to jail," he said.

In addition to patrolling his property with a loaded gun, Urban said he plans to contact the state Turnpike Authority about building a higher fence for added protection.

"Anybody can park their car and just walk over that fence," he said.

Urban said he suspects the thieves are from New York and it should be easy for police to catch them.

"Only three people in the United States have the Romanian Naked Neck (species)," Urban said. "It's impossible for them to get away with those birds."

After the last theft, Urban urged police to check at auctions, where he believes his stolen birds are most likely to turn up.

Urban said the thieves could hide breeding pairs in places like cellars and raise and sell their offspring. Markets could include shooting clubs that use them for target practice.

The last of Urban's Spanish Naked Neck pigeons were taken in the most recent incident, and only five of the Romanian variety remain, he said.

Urban has 287 varieties of pigeons in a flock numbering more than 10,000.

Urban has been raising pigeons since his father gave him his first pair when he was 2 years old. He has traveled around the world to find them. Some of his birds have won trophies, awards and ribbons at shows around the world.

He has been featured in, and written for, magazines for pigeon fanciers.

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