A BARWON Heads animal sanctuary boss fears "bird nappers" are pinching rare breeds from across Geelong.
Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary director Tehree Gordon said she had about 20 calls from worried residents since Christmas.
In Belmont, a pet shop owner said he had noticed an increase in bird theft with some of his customers having birds stolen from their homes.
Family Pet and Aquarium's Darren Dwyer said he advised people to exercise caution when selling birds privately.
"Put the bird in a cage and bring it into the house," he said. "Don't let people see your aviary. They are coming back at night and stealing them. It's easy money.
"They're mongrels, the thieves."
Mrs Gordon said her own sanctuary was now upping its security and she warned others to do the same.
"Three people in the last week have come to us saying their birds have gone missing from areas including Moolap, Leopold and Herne Hill," Mrs Gordon said.
"Our concern is there may be some type of parrot napper operating in Geelong and selling these birds on the black market.
"We've ramped up our security here, with more CCTV cameras and guard dogs to protect our birds, and I would recommend others secure their birds as well."
Mrs Gordon said the Department of Sustainability and Environment had also been notified.
Birds that have been reported missing included eclectus parrots, sun conyas and alexandrine parrots, she said. "When a bird arrives here now that's obviously been a pet it will be handed to DSE and people who collect birds will need to present photo ID so an investigation can take place if you try to claim something that doesn't belong to you," she said.
A DSE spokesman said the department dealt with the possession of native wildlife without a valid licence and the illegal possession of imported wildlife.