Volunteer at Bird Rescue Center

The work of the Center is possible only through generous volunteer donations of time, money, materials and effort. Countless birds have been rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Thousands of children and adults have been introduced to our resident Raptor Ambassadors and have learned about birds and the environment we all depend on.

If you would like to be part of this unique hands-on experience with wild birds, we invite you to join us! Both adults and juniors (13 and up) will find a role they can play. We provide training for most of the volunteer jobs at the Center, and you will learn much more on the job. Come see us during our public monthly Open House or contact us about future Volunteer Orientations (which generally take place during February-April). To get in on the fun, call the Center in January and leave your full contact info and someone will get back to you. Keep in touch with us on Facebook.

Whether it’s helping hawks or hummingbirds, answering phones or gardening, there’s plenty to do at the Center, and many ways you can put your skills and energy to work. Just click the “+” sign to read about each one:

These volunteers provide the hands-on care so necessary to our patients. During Baby Bird Season the work largely centers around hand-feeding babies and juveniles, preparing them for release. However, injured birds are in need of treatment year-round. We have an excellent veterinarian who works with us, but follow-up care is performed at the Center.

You will have the opportunity to work with birds of many species as you learn how and what to feed them. Besides feeding duties, hospital volunteers are expected to participate in food preparation, general cleaning, laundry and washing of food dishes, keeping birds clean and changing nesting materials as needed. The work can be intense, particularly during Baby Bird Season, but the rewards are many. Knowing that you personally helped to return a bird to the wild is a wonderful feeling!

This work is not for everyone. It can be physically demanding; you are largely on your feet for four hours at a time, with lots of bending down, carrying and cleaning. It is not for the squeamish; handling live mealworms for the babies and dead mice for the raptors is part of the work. All volunteers are required to become BRC members, have health insurance coverage and be up-to-date on their tetanus booster. Anyone with a compromised immune system should not work in hands-on wildlife rehabilitation, though there are many other volunteer opportunities available at BRC.

Extensive training is required to work in the Rehabilitation Hospital, and our staff invests a lot of time and effort in that training. There are four mandatory 4-hour training sessions in addition to the Volunteer Orientation. We require a minimum commitment to a regular 4-hour shift per week during the height of Baby Bird Season (May through August), so please seriously consider your schedule and workload before joining the Rehab Team. Our birds and staff depend on volunteers being on-time and ready to work!

There are many ways to support the Center. If you are not able to commit the time required for Rehab work, please consider joining our Field Rescue team or other area. And simply becoming a BRC member helps cover the expenses incurred in caring for our native wild birds.

Response Team members often provide our first line of contact with the public, whether answering phone calls or admitting injured birds brought in to the Center. Response Team members receive birds and collect information needed by our hospital staff to evaluate the bird’s condition and treatment. Working at the Admissions Desk, volunteers also serve as a source of information regarding Center operations, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

During the spring and summer Baby Bird Season this team plays an important role, helping callers evaluate and decide if a young bird can be safely left where it is or replaced in a nest, or if it needs to be brought to the Center. Throughout the year, volunteers may assist someone with a bird caught in their warehouse, trapped in a chimney, flying into a window or in need of our assistance in some way. Response Team members often report a great sense of satisfaction that they have helped both the bird and its finder.

This is a great choice for those who may not feel up to being on their feet for a 4-hour volunteer shift in the Rehabilitation Hospital, or who just enjoy helping people and birds in need. Training is provided.

We receive calls from all over Sonoma County and the North Bay area, and need individuals located throughout the region to rescue birds in the field. People who find birds are sometimes unable to bring them to the Center, or a finder may be unable or unwilling to attempt capturing a raptor or large waterbird themselves.

Field Rescue volunteers are trained to evaluate situations and decide whether a bird needs to be captured and brought in for treatment, and how to safely capture and transport birds of all kinds. Besides helping birds, our Field Rescue volunteers provide valuable information and assistance to the finders.

This is a great activity for those who enjoy getting out into the field, evaluating situations and interacting with the public. The experience is ever-changing and ever-challenging. One-day training is provided, with additional opportunities to learn from experienced rescuers. Anyone involved in Field Rescue and/or the transport of birds needs proof of current auto insurance.

The Center maintains a group of 18 non-releasable birds (primarily hawks, owls and falcons) for use in educational talks and outreach events. These are usually birds that have recovered from an injury but have sustained permanent damage, making them incapable of surviving in the wild.  
Volunteers with the Raptor Handling Program are responsible for handling the birds, keeping them fed, cleaning their aviaries, performing weekly health evaluations and maintaining equipment. Volunteers learn how to safely handle the birds on their gloved fist, tie them to a perch, box them for transport to public events, and much more. Once they become competent in these necessary handling skills, volunteers are eligible to participate in our Educational Program with the public.

Participants in this program have a uniquely rewarding opportunity to closely work and interact with birds usually observed only from a distance. This work requires a certain level of physical dexterity and conditioning (e.g., the ability to hold a 3-pound bird for an hour or more on one hand, bending down to perch a bird, standing for an extended period, etc.). The hands-on instruction is extensive, requiring several months of weekly, 2-hour+ training sessions, and covers not only the care and handling of these birds, but also the study of migration, avian anatomy, bird identification and other topics commonly part of our Education Programs.

Once formal training is completed, handlers are expected to work with the resident raptors a minimum of 2-3 hours each week, and to present birds to the public during at least one Visitor Day per quarter. Attendance at occasional guest lectures and study groups may be required from time to time.

Raptor handlers are also required to undergo the one-day Field Rescue training. All volunteers are required to become BRC members, have health insurance coverage and be up-to-date on their tetanus booster, and anyone transporting birds to education programs or other events needs proof of current auto insurance coverage as well.

The next training will begin in Fall 2019. See the Raptor Program page for more details.

Through our educational presentations we interact with children and adults, providing vital information about our local ecology, the significance of human impact on that environment and the birds that share it. We are often accompanied by one or more of our resident birds, who serve as our Education Ambassadors.

Whether talking one-on-one with people at a community event, standing before a classroom of wide-eyed children, or reaching larger groups at public lectures, we strive to give everyone a new appreciation for nature and wild birds.

Volunteers receive the support and training they need so they can share their love and concern for birds and the environment. If you enjoy meeting the public, working with children, helping other teachers, or just spreading the word about the work of The Bird Rescue Center, you will experience the great rewards of being a Bird Rescue volunteer.

The WWII-era quonset hut and grounds we have occupied since 1980 include our administrative offices, the Rehabilitation Hospital, the “mews” (aviaries) for our permanent resident birds, an outdoor classroom, a small museum and a garden area. As with any facility, construction, maintenance, repairs and improvements are ongoing activities. If you have special skills, or just willing hands and some time to share, we welcome your help! Become a member, attend an Orientation and let us know about the contribution you want to make. You’ll meet new friends and reap the satisfying reward of giving back to wildlife and your community.

The stewardship and guidance of a strong Board of Directors is critical for any organization. By sharing their professional expertise and experience, Board members provide oversight for the financial, operational and strategic development of our organization. While keeping a hand on the realities of today the Board also helps create a vision for the future, and connects the Center to the larger community.

Interested persons are invited to contact the Center to learn more about its activities and to discuss the process for nomination to the Board of Directors. Please contact Board Chairman, Jeremy Nichols for more details.