THIEVES who stole pedigree pigeons worth more than a thousand pounds have left their owner “absolutely gutted”.

William Shaw, 77, has kept pigeons at his Haxby home for more than 45 years, and said he believed thieves had targeted a breeding pair and their two chicks specifically, ignoring other less valuable racing pigeons, as they knew their value.

Mr Shaw said: “I’m absolutely gutted. I never thought anybody would do that to me.

“I have got a full batch of pigeons that all have 12-day-old chicks and they haven’t touched them. That’s why I know someone knew what they were after.”

All four birds had identity rings attached to them – the adult male’s id number was GB09H42299, the chicks’ numbers were GB14V28586 and GB14V28587, and the adult female’s began GB12V072 (the final two numbers were not available at time of going to press).

Mr Shaw, who races pigeons with Haxby Working Men’s Club Flying Club, said the adult male was “irreplaceable”, as it was bred from a champion itself, though said the breeding pair would likely sell for upwards of £500 each.

The chicks, which would grow to be racers rather than breeders, would probably sell for the same.

He said: “It’s definitely someone who knows what they wanted.

“The chicks had been advertised for sale this week and sold, so I have to ring round and explain things. I feel sorry for the people who’ve bought them.”

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said it appeared the thieves had targeted Mr Shaw’s loft specifically for these birds, and officers were checking a pair of wire cutters which had been left at the scene for forensic evidence.

Anyone with information which could help police, or who has been offered the birds or chicks for sale should phone 101 quoting job 0125 of Sunday, February 23.