The Birds of Pandemonium: Life Among the Exotic and the Endangered
"A remarkable book. Reading about the birds of Pandemonium will make you laugh and cry; it will make you see more clearly the need to take care of our planet; and it will confirm that one person with a passion can make a difference." --Jeff Corwin, nature conservationist and host of Animal PlanetEach morning at first light, Michele Raffin steps outside into the bewitching bird music that heralds another day at Pandemonium Aviaries. A full symphony that swells from the most vocal of more than 350 avian throats representing more than 40 species. "It knocks me out, every day," she says. Pandemonium, the home and bird sanctuary that Raffin shares with some of the world's most remarkable birds, is a conservation organization dedicated to saving and breeding birds at the edge of extinction, with the goal of eventually releasing them into the wild. In The Birds of Pandemonium, she lets us into her world--and theirs. Birds fall in love, mourn, rejoice, and sacrifice; they have a sense of humor, invent, plot, and cope. They can teach us volumes about the interrelationships of humans and animals. Their amazing stories make up the heart of this book. There's Sweetie, a tiny quail with an outsize personality; the inspiring Oscar, a disabled Lady Gouldian finch who can't fly but finds a brilliant way to climb to the highest perches of his aviary to roost. The ecstatic reunion of a disabled Victoria crowned pigeon, Wing, and her brother, Coffee, is as wondrous as the silent kinship that develops between Amadeus, a one-legged turaco, and an autistic young visitor. As we come to know the individual birds, we also come to understand how much is at stake for many of these species. One of the aviary's greatest success stories is breeding the gorgeous green-naped pheasant pigeon, whose home in the New Guinea rainforest is being decimated. Thanks to efforts at Pandemonium, these birds may not share the same fate as the now-extinct dodo. The Birds of Pandemonium is about one woman's crusade to save precious lives, and it offers rare insights into how following a passion can transform not only oneself but also the world. "A delightful account. Its appeal is ageless, her descriptions riveting, and her devotion to the birds remarkable." --Joanna Burger, author of The Parrot Who Owns Me "A fascinating and rarely seen glimpse behind the scenes. The joy she gets from her close relationships with these amazing animals and her outsized commitment to them comes through loud and clear in this engaging and joyful book." --Dominick Dorsa, Curator of Birds, San Francisco Zoo "Reading this wonderful book, one cannot help but realize how much intelligence and beauty there is throughout the bird world. The birds are Michele Raffin's teachers, awakening a deep sense of commitment to caring for our collective future . . . This book is about reconnecting with the nature of birds, and the nature of ourselves."
--Jon Young, author of What the Robin Knows
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About the Author
Michele Raffin is president of Pandemonium Aviaries, a conservation organization dedicated to saving birds. A former high-tech executive, Raffin began taking in abandoned and discarded birds fifteen years ago, housing them in her backyard a half hour south of San Francisco. Today Pandemonium is still in Raffin's backyard, but it is now one of the premier facilities breeding and caring for avian species facing extinction due to the destruction of their natural habitats. The aviary has the largest population of rare green-naped pheasant pigeons under conservation in the world and the second largest population of the endangered Victoria crowned pigeons. Raffin, who also lives with turacos, lorikeets, East African cranes, finches, and doves (as well as parrots, donkeys, goats, two dogs, and one cat!) is a dedicated avian advocate and a passionate observer of birdlife, and in The Birds of Pandemonium her enthusiasm for and special relationship with these winged creatures comes through radiantly. A certified aviculturist and regular consultant to zoos and breeders, Raffin has spoken at the TEDx conference, is the conservation columnist for the Avicultural Society of America's Avicultural Bulletin, and has served as cochair of a large humane society and on the board of a companion bird rescue organization. And on a completely different note, Raffin won a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Olympic Weight Lifting Championship and holds the Pan American Masters record.
"The Birds of Pandemonium does for rare birds what Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief did for rare orchids, Joy Adamson's Born Free did for lions, and Jane Goodall did for chimpanzees and apes . . . With vibrant photographs of its spectacularly plumed lead characters, The Birds of Pandemonium is a rich suet, seeded with both hearty information and delectable flights of fancy." --Heller McAlpin, NPR.org
"Charming, self-effacing and extremely reverent." --The New York Times
"Captivating." --Entertainment Weekly
"Breezily written and briskly paced." --The Wall Street Journal
"Michele Raffin has written a delightful account of her adventures caring for injured and abandoned birds. It is a good read, full of wonderful accounts of bird behavior, demonstrating caring, learning, sociability, adaptability, and a will to live. Its appeal is ageless, her descriptions riveting, and her devotion to the birds remarkable. I couldn't put it down for wanting to follow her adventures." --Joanna Burger, author of The Parrot Who Owns Me: A Story of a Relationship
"[A] lovely memoir-cum-how-to manual for starting an aviary from scratch . . . Learning from the birds, Raffin has made Pandemonium into a true sanctuary." --Booklist
"Raffin's passionate advocacy for birds is reminiscent of Jane Goodall's support for great apes. The author emerges as a knowledgeable and, above all, endearing champion of animals, who practices what she preaches." --Publishers Weekly
"Avian 'personalities' predominate in the book, but there are human angles, too, such as how Raffin manages the ups and downs of her demanding calling, the funny family dynamics as she wheedles yet one more bird into the menagerie, and the backstory exposing the secretive 'boys' club of bird breeders with which she contends. The book closes triumphantly with the birth of a rare green-naped pheasant pigeon chick, a notoriously difficult bird to breed in captivity . . . Raffin's self-deprecating humor endears." --Library Journal
"A remarkable book. Reading about the birds of Pandemonium will make you laugh and cry; it will make you see more clearly the need to take care of our planet; and it will confirm that one person with a passion can make a difference." --Jeff Corwin, nature conservationist and host of Animal Planet