Cover image for The birds of Pandemonium : life among the exotic and the endangered
The birds of Pandemonium : life among the exotic and the endangered
Raffin, Michele.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014.
Physical Description:
pages cm
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL676.56.C2 R34 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



"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

Each 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

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Oscar, the flightless Gouldian finch, was the inspiration for aviculturist Raffin's conservation aviary, Pandemonium Aviaries. Though unable to fly, Oscar's determination to get up to higher perches taught Raffin to observe his behavior, improvise a solution to his problem, and ultimately achieve success, with Oscar not only perching up where he wanted but also able later to get to a nesting area and produce chicks. Oscar's story is the theme of this lovely memoir-cum-how-to manual for starting an aviary from scratch. There was the rescue of an injured white dove, which led to Raffin's lifelong love affair with the pigeon family and her eventual successful breeding of endangered Victoria crowned pigeons. An Amazon parrot, the victim of too many previous owners, decided he loved Raffin's son, which opened the door to more rescued parrots and to learning how to work with emotionally damaged birds. Learning from the birds, Raffin has made Pandemonium into a true sanctuary.--Bent, Nancy Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Raffin, Avicultural Bulletin columnist and founder of the Pandemonium Aviaries bird sanctuary, describes the trajectory of her accidental career as a breeder of endangered species in this anecdotal, entertaining memoir. In 1996 a random encounter and subsequent rescue of a wounded dove on the Lawrence Highway led Raffin to Louis Brown, a local bird breeder, who took Raffin and her newfound avian interest under his wing. At the time, the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 had given rise to a surfeit of homeless doves and pigeons throughout the U.S. (in the words of the author, From the late 1990s until around 2010, it was raining birds,)--many of which Raffin went on to adopt. She recounts her experiences over the years providing shelter to a of variety birds, including a red-headed, potty-mouthed Amazon parrot called Amigo, a quail named Sweetie, and Harli and Peeki, a pair of gay lorikeets. 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. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Raffin, a former venture capital consultant, channeled her deep connection with animals into the development of "Pandemonium," a San Francisco area exotic species aviary. The author's initial focus involves bird rescue; demand for her care is strong enough that within a decade her single coop will grow into a multiaviary complex sheltering some 300 birds and 40 species. Learning as she goes, Raffin shares many insights into her birds' behavior and needs. 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 author's mission eventually shifts to imperiled species conservation, and 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 but hackneyed diction spoils her effort. Dialog peppered throughout the text is often lame, leading the reader to wonder: Do people really talk like that? VERDICT Animal lovers will likely forgive the author her stylistic lapses and read appreciatively of her many strong works. Robert Eagan, Windsor P.L., Ont. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Preface The Tao of Oscar, Architect Finchp. 1
1 Morning at Pandemoniump. 9
2 One Dove Leads to Another, and Another...p. 28
3 Bird Fever: One More Is No Big Dealp. 49
4 Do You Speak Bird?p. 60
5 It Was Raining Birdsp. 73
6 Amigo: A Bird and His Boyp. 81
7 Wing and Coffee: Crowned Gloriesp. 98
8 Let's Have Babiesp. 106
9 Mail-Order Bridep. 118
10 Tico: The Bird Lady Gets Schooledp. 133
11 Hello, Pretty Mamap. 155
12 The Flock in Peril: Mice, Men, and Microbesp. 168
13 Lets Get Seriousp. 185
14 Blessed Eventsp. 195
Epiloguep. 208
Acknowledgmentsp. 217