Volunteer Opportunities

KH2 Oct 7We have a wide variety of  volunteer opportunities available; check out the list below and click on a job title for more detailed info.  If volunteering interests you, please e-mail us.

Like most volunteer organizations, we offer a series of orientations and trainings to our prospective volunteers. Currently scheduled sessions are listed here.

Individuals or groups looking for service projects are encouraged to check out our service days.

If you are under 18 and are interested in volunteering either long-term or as part of a community service requirement, check out our Young Volunteer page.

Volunteer Opportunities at BBBO:

Early-morning team:  ScribeNet Assistant, Banding Assistant, Picker-in-Charge, Bander-in-Charge
Bag Brigade – sewing new bird bags and/or washing old ones
Band of Merry Menders – repairing damaged mist nets
Census Corps – birdwatching with a purpose
Data Entry Division – digitizing our records
Education Posse – providing informative commentary to guests
Garden Gang – tending our native plant gardens
House Party – cleaning and maintaining the BBBO field house
Newsletter League – helping produce and/or distribute the annual newsletter
Paparazzi – documenting our birds through photography
Social Media Squad – maintaining our blog, facebook, and website
Trail Team – habitat and trail maintenance


Scribes sit at the banding table and record the data given to them by the bird banders. Good scribes are worth their weight in gold, as badly recorded information is as bad or worse than no information at all. Scribing serves as the entry point to all bird-handing roles.

Qualifications: Above all, scribes must have legible handwriting. Scribes must be able to sit or stand for long periods of time, be able to hear clearly over low background noise, and be able to mentally focus on a precise but repetitive task.

Benefits: Scribes sit in the catbird seat, as they get to see every bird that comes into the station. Scribes work closely with the banders, and it is a perfect opportunity to learn more about bird identification, aging and sexing. Scribes also get to work with the public on a regular basis, and are often the first to welcome guests to the station. This job is perfect for people who cannot navigate the trails safely, or for those who want to see birds up close but have no desire to handle them.

Limiting considerations: Dyslexia and especially dysgraphia may compromise an individual’s ability to successfully record a series of letters and numbers.

Net Assistant

Net assistants or “net-pickers” walk around the trails on a pre-determined schedule, safely removing birds that have been captured in our mist nets. Net assistants have, in many ways, the most demanding job as it is in their hands that the birds are at the greatest risk.

Qualifications: Net assistants must have excellent eyesight, sensitivity in the fingertips, and hand-eye coordination. Net assistants should be patient and calm, and should be able to tune out distractions like biting insects. It helps to be a puzzle solver – if you can untangle a snarl of yarn, you may be good at net-picking. Depending on the size of the daily crew, net assistants may walk 2-5 miles in a six-hour shift so it is crucial that they are steady on their feet and able to walk a moderate distance across an unpaved but relatively level path.

Benefits: This is a precious job, as you are working one-on-one with a bird whose momentary well-being rests entirely with you. Spending time outdoors, often alone on the trail, is relaxing and centering for many people and it’s an easy way to get your 10,000 steps in before lunch.

Limiting considerations: Net assistants must be prepared to get dirty – the trails are often muddy, you sometimes have to kneel in the dirt, and birds often poop in technicolor on your favorite shirt. It can be hot, or cold, or wet, or windy. There may be mosquitoes, ticks, bees, and biting ants.


On some days, an experienced net assistant is appointed to be the Picker-in-Charge, or “PIC.” The PIC is responsible for ensuring that the net runs happen on schedule, in a safe and organized way. A PIC is especially useful on days with large crews or on days with many events and guests.

Qualifications: PICs must be experienced net assistants of exceptional competence, and they must have a good understanding of station protocol. They should be organized and diplomatic.

Benefits: Being a PIC is a fantastic way to provide good leadership skills to the organization, without shouldering responsibility past the end of the banding day.

Limiting considerations: None, beyond those of the net assistant.

Banding Assistant

Banding assistants or “banders” stand at the banding table and process, measure, age and sex the birds. While this job is not physically demanding, it can be mentally demanding as good banders must have a wealth of information at the ready.

Qualifications: Banding assistants must have excellent eyesight, sensitivity in the fingertips, and hand-eye coordination. They should pay close attention to detail, and have a good memory.

Benefits: Banding exercises your mental muscles, as it calls on you to use both science and experience to make often subtle determinations about a bird’s age or sex. Since banders examine the birds most closely, they may have the opportunity to make novel and surprising discoveries that advance our understanding of avian biology.

Limiting considerations: Dyslexia or poor eyesight may compromise a bander’s ability to accurately read the numbers on a band. Color-blindness and cataracts can interfere with making accurate identification, age or sex determinations.


Banders-in-Charge or “BICs” are responsible for the smooth operation of the station during their shift. BICs are empowered to make important decisions such as which nets to open or close, how to allocate personnel on a daily basis, and how to handle emergency or unexpected situations. BICs are experienced banders with both a federal and a state permit that allows them to operate a banding station unsupervised.

Qualifications: BICs must have sufficient banding experience so that they are able to make sound decisions regarding all aspects of station operation. They should be patient and calm, and diplomatic in dealing with other volunteers. They must be able to multi-task.

Benefits: Running the station can be an exciting challenge that is rarely the same from one day to the next. Helping the volunteers coordinate to do our work can be immensely satisfying.

Limiting considerations: BICs must be able to step in as a scribe, net assistant or banding assistant. Hence, any limitation of those jobs also applies here.

Bag Brigade

We use soft cotton bags to transport birds from the nets to the station. The bird bags quickly get soiled, and they need to be washed. Then, as the bags wear, they need to be replaced. We need several volunteers to wash bags, and at least a couple to construct new ones.

Qualifications: Washing bags requires only a washing machine. To sew a bird bag you need a sewing machine and the ability to make a French seam.

Benefits: Clean bags keep birds healthy, so washing bags is a quick and easy way to contribute to the welfare of our avian friends. Sewing bird bags is a tangible way to produce something of value for the station. The bird bags keep birds safe, calm and healthy, and the more we have – the better!

Band of Merry Menders

The mist nets we use are fragile and frequently get torn. Net menders help fix broken sections of net, usually by whip-stitching a tear together but sometimes by rebuilding a missing section of netting.

Qualifications: Other than eyesight good enough to thread a needle, all a net mender needs is patience and the ability to tie a secure knot.

Benefits: Some find handwork soothing, and many enjoy the quiet time outdoors. This is also a job that can be done at any time of day, and – if one wants to mend nets at home or indoors – in any season.

Census Corps

Banding gives us one measure of the timing and composition of birds moving through our area; doing a daily census is another. BBBO needs experienced birders to help complete a daily early morning census route.

Qualifications: The ability to recognize most eastern birds by sight and sound is a must. Previous experience conducting a bird census is not necessary, but members of the corps should be familiar and comfortable with techniques for counting and recording numbers of birds. Census takers should be able to safely navigate an unpaved path and walk approximately ½ mile.

Benefits: For birders who would be out in the morning anyway, this is a two-for-one opportunity to make your observations have even more scientific value.

Data Entry Division

All of the data written on the paper sheets must be entered into our computer database so that it can be submitted to the federal government or used for research purposes.

Qualifications: Our data entry techs should be able to decipher a variety of printing styles, and accurately key them into the computer. This task is repetitive but requires enough thought that can’t be done on “autopilot”; a good data entry tech can maintain focus even through what might be a tedious task.

Benefits: This is a great job for those who have difficulty working outdoors, or for those who don’t want to handle birds.

Education Posse

BBBO needs docents for both onsite and offsite demonstrations and events. During the banding season, our station is open to the public and we frequently host tours of up to 40 people at a time. The priority of the “hands-on” team is the safety of the bird, so to prevent them from being distracted by guest questions, it’s helpful to have docents serve as interpreters. BBBO also occasionally attends festivals and other offsite events, and we need docents to represent us by presenting a consistent, coherent message and by serving as a positive public face for the station and for banding in general.

Qualifications: Docents should be able to communicate with a variety of audiences. A science or educational background is not necessary, but it is important to be able to convey scientific information to a lay audience in a way that is accurate and accessible.

Benefits: For those who enjoy working with the public, this is a rewarding way to educate people about birds, the value of banding, and science in general.

Garden Gang

We have two gardens that need tending. The Memorial Garden is a small garden located at the station, and it features native plants. The BBBO house has several small plant beds as well as pond surrounded by native plantings. BBBO needs someone to coordinate the vision for those gardens, and we need several volunteers to help execute that vision.

Qualifications: While we especially invite those with a knowledge of plants native to New York to champion our gardens, most maintenance can be done by anyone willing to pull weeds.

Benefits: Gardening can be good exercise, is soothing to many, and it is a job that can be done on a flexible schedule.

House Party

BBBO owns a house so that our interns, students and visiting researchers have a place to stay during the season. The house needs seasonal cleaning and maintenance to be habitable.

Qualifications: House cleaners should be able to tolerate the chemicals used in routine cleaning. Handypeople should be familiar with a variety of odd jobs such as replacing a window screen or fixing a loose fence gate.

Benefits: While we often talk about the importance of habitat for birds, we also want to provide a safe clean habitat for our banders. If you only have a couple of hours to spare once or twice a year, consider joining the house crew.

Newsletter League

BBBO publishes an annual newsletter, and we need help at all levels of production – editing, writing, format, and distribution. Often these roles are done by a single person, but they need not be. It’s especially helpful to have a team in place to manage mailing.

Qualifications: The editor should be meticulous and detail-oriented. Volunteers involved in formatting the newsletter should be comfortable using InDesign computer software. Writers should have excellent writing skills and should be able to convey scientific information to a lay audience in way that is both accurate and accessible. Serving on the mailing team just requires a couple hours of time!

Benefits: Working on the mailing team is perfect for those who only have an hour or two to devote to BBBO. Newsletter content development and production is a great way to exercise your writing and design skills, and is a super outlet for your creativity.


BBBO often photographs birds for documentary or publication purposes, and we need volunteers with good camera skills to help us take photos and keep them organized.

Qualifications: The paparazzi should have the equipment and skills to take close-up photos.

Benefits: This is a unique way to use photography to advance a valuable scientific purpose.

Social Media Squad

BBBO maintains a website, a blog and a facebook page. We need people to develop those platforms – including designing and redesigning pages – and to help create and curate content.

Qualifications: Volunteers on the content team should have excellent written communication skills, should be familiar with various social media platforms, and should be able to exercise good judgment about what posts appropriately represent BBBO. Volunteers interested in website development should be familiar with WordPress.

Benefits: This is a fun way to help BBBO reach a wide audience, and it can be done on a flexible schedule.

Trail Team

Plants grow, and sometimes they overgrow. Invasive plants need constant management, and our trails need to be trimmed so that vegetation doesn’t interfere with the nets. We also routinely spread mulch on the trails to keep them drier in the spring, and we mow grassy areas around the nets, near the banding station, and across the road at the Manitou Beach Preserve.

Qualifications: While there is always light trimming to do, some habitat work can be strenuous. Most volunteers on the trail crew should be in reasonable condition – steady on their feet, and able to bend, lift and carry up to 25 lbs. BBBO will provide all the necessary equipment (pruners, shovels, wheelbarrows, lawnmowers) but volunteers should bring their own work gloves.

Benefits: Trail maintenance can be a good workout, and it can be done on a flexible schedule.