So a few weeks ago I was browsing around Atlas Obscura, looking to see what sites it's highlighted around here. Almost all the local ones I'd been to, but there's one I hadn't heard of: Pandemonium Aviaries, a rescue shelter for birds.
The listing said it wasn't open to the public, but it also said that tours could be arranged. The click led to an AirBnB listing, where I found that yes, indeed, a few tours were now available for a limited period.
Well. B. loves to visit animals, especially cats (especially big cats), but birds are next on the list. I hastened to arrange this. I needed to create an account on AirBnB to do this, an interesting experience in itself, and I had some discussion with the proprietors to ensure the tour wouldn't be too physically wearisome on us, but it was arranged, and yesterday we went.
It's a quarter-acre lot on a dead-end back road in the tangle among the hills above Los Altos, and behind the house it's packed with small to medium aviaries. (Visitors don't go inside them, but you can see pretty much everything from the pathways.) There's parrots and parakeets, various species of oversize pigeons (many of them from the Indian Ocean, relatives of the dodo, and some of them looking a bit like the dodo), giant cranes, tiny finches of a vast variety of stunning colors, and much more. There's a lot of good photos on their own website.
There were 6 of us on that day's tour, plus the guide (one of the small regular staff), which is about as many as could fit in the cramped spaces, on a slightly too hot day. Various exotic bird calls were heard, but despite the place's name pandemonium did not erupt. We learned that keeping exotic birds is a challenge. These are species not covered in the regular vet manuals, and few people know much about them. What do they eat? What kind of environment do they like? How do you take care of them? What if they get ill? The owner started with one rescue dove, and now has over 300 birds and has moved into trying to propagate endangered species.
It turned out we were wise to take this opportunity. The reason they've started up the tours is because they've run out of space and will be moving next year, to North Carolina, far away from us. There they'll have room for regular tours, and decided to start getting the birds used to visitors, and also to use the tours, which are not inexpensive, to raise some of the money for the move. So here was a rare, once-ever opportunity to see the birds, close to home. Though it was a very exhausting couple of hours out, we're glad we did it. People around here who like birds should check to see what's available and go see them too.