The loss of birds was estimated at $10,000 and authorities had few clues to help their investigation. Meanwhile, volunteers were scouring online sites for any sign of someone trying to sell the birds.

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Bob Dawson said he was making the rounds at his Carnation bird sanctuary with a volunteer on Sunday when he noticed the first birds missing.

Systematically, Dawson went from aviary to aviary on his property, discovering some 50 birds had been stolen from the Macaw Rescue & Sanctuary.

Dawson said he looked for signs of a burglary, but admits that it would be difficult to determine because the property lacks security cameras and is not kept locked. On Monday, he called the King County Sheriff’s Office to report the thefts.

Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. B.J. Myers said a deputy met with Dawson at the sanctuary.

“There’s not a whole lot of leads for us. We really don’t know what happened,” Myers said Tuesday.

He said the deputy did not see a sign of a break-in or any footprints from either an animal or a human.

For now, the deputy believes Dawson’s strategy of having his volunteers search online bird-resale sites, in case the thief or thieves try to resell the birds — is the best course of action.

Dawson said he has volunteers scouring Craigslist and other online sites in search of the missing animals, which include cockatoos, Senegal parrots, Meyer’s parrots, brown-headed parrots and red-bellied parrots. He declined to go into specifics about what is missing in fear of jeopardizing the criminal investigation.

“They might be setting them up for breeding or wanting to sell them,” he said about the thieves. “There’s a retail market for them.”

Dawson said he wants the birds returned to him “no questions asked.”

“Bring them back, no questions asked, or let the law handle it and I’m sorry what will come your way,” he said.

Dawson said the total loss in birds is close to $10,000. But, he said, he’s not in the bird-sales business so he’s not entirely sure.

Julie Corwin, Northwest regional director of the American Federation of Aviculture, the national nonprofit organization representing and educating people on all aspects of keeping and breeding birds, spoke with Dawson on Tuesday. She said Dawson’s sanctuary offers one of the area’s largest properties for the lifetime care for birds in need of homes.

“He has dedicated 20 acres of land and his life to these birds. He is very attached to many of them,” said Corwin. “He provides a great environment; a lifetime home for these birds.”

After talking to Dawson, Corwin is convinced the person who stole the birds took very specific species.

“We have a lot of problems in the bird world. There are bad apples out there,” Corwin said. “Bob’s sanctuary was just featured on (television’s) ‘Evening Magazine.’ That may have attracted somebody on that side of the tracks.”

The theft of exotic birds, some of which can be worth a few thousand dollars each, is not unheard of.

In June 2012, about 300 parrots worth an estimated $150,000 were stolen from a Fort Meyers, Fla., couple’s backyard aviaries, according to ABC News. Fred Smith, a regional director of the American Federation of Aviculture, said of the 2012 theft that thieves often gas the birds when they are asleep, then cut into the cages and take the birds by transporting them in burlap sacks.

Corwin, who lives in Seattle, said that “it’s really sad somebody wants to either set them up for breeding or sell them to make some money.”

For more than 20 years, Dawson and his family have been caring for birds and other animals. The sprawling Carnation property has been the site of their sanctuary for the past 12 years.

Dawson said he has long operated on pure trust of volunteers and visitors. After last weekend, he said that has changed.

Security cameras are being installed this week and all birds on the property will be microchipped, he said.

“I’m a trusting person,” he said. “For this to happen, I’m devastated. It’s like I’ve been violated, it ripped my heart out.”

On Tuesday, Dawson spent the day calling families who had donated the birds to the sanctuary because they could no longer care for them.

“They’re feeling really bad, some of them. These people trusted their babies to me. They treated their birds like their kids and spoiled them. They had to get rid of them.” he said. “I feel like I let them down, even though this is not in my control.”