Wed09172014

Community

Singing a sweet tune: Local bird sanctuary succeeds in preserving endangered species


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier Pandemonium Aviaries, located in the Los Altos area, is home to many birds, including the colorful Victoria-crowned Pigeon.

Green-naped Pheasant Pigeons may be nearly extinct in the rainforests of their native New Guinea, but the bird thrives in one local aviary that is trying to preserve the species.

Pandemonium Aviaries is home to the largest population of several endangered bird species in the world, according to founder Michele Raffin.

The nonprofit aviary, based in the Los Altos area, hosts the second largest population of Green-naped Pheasant Pigeons in the world, said Raffin, who added that the organization hopes to reintroduce the bird in New Guinea, and in the interim sustain and increase the species’ population by learning how to breed it, along with the Victoria-crowned Pigeon and other threatened and endangered species.

The aviary could use some post-Christmas help. Volunteers are appealing to the public for donations, whether it be cash, bird toys or fruit to feed their birds.

Although the bird sanctuary is home to hundreds of birds representing more than 40 species, Pandemonium Aviaries focuses on breeding target species through its Avian Recovery for Conservation program. As there is little information available on species conservation, the aviary is now considered an invaluable resource internationally.

Pandemonium Aviaries produced 19 hatchlings in 2012, including two Green-naped Pheasant Pigeons and two Nicobar Pigeons. When funding becomes available, the organization plans to purchase another incubator. Under current circumstances, only one egg can be incubated at a time, limiting the ability to nurture abandoned eggs.

Given the limited gene pool of birds available in the U.S., minimal information on breeding rare species and obstacles in replicating a climate similar to a bird’s native environment, Pandemonium Aviaries’ success is impressive.

“Each egg that is hatched brings one more bird into its species,” longtime volunteer Denise Mohsenin said.

An all-volunteer organization, Pandemonium Aviaries relies on the support of 40 specialized volunteers like Mohsenin and interns who help with day-to-day operational needs, administrative work, marketing and educational outreach.

Supporting and caring for animals sensitive to cold temperatures, light and wet weather is a full-time role. Checking the humidity inside aviaries at 2 a.m. is not uncommon, nor is constant monitoring of the birds.

Because each species has unique dietary needs, it takes between four and five hours each morning to prepare meals of bugs, fruits and legumes for the birds.

The organization spends an average of $500 a week on fresh fruits for the birds, and donations of vegetables and organic food from local businesses help lower expenses.

Until Pandemonium Aviaries is able to open to the public, it provides updates for those interested in the work.

Raffin is working toward building an education center – in the style of the Monterey Bay Aquarium – that will allow access to the public and offer information about the rare and endangered birds and conservation efforts within five years.

In the meantime, those interested can sign up to receive email updates on the organization’s website or join the newly inaugurated Feather Club.

To donate, send checks payable to Pandemonium Aviaries, (Attn: Donations), PO Box 240, Los Altos 94024.

For more information, visit pandemoniumaviaries.org.

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