Volunteer & Intern

The Wild Bird Fund Rehabilitation Center depends on volunteers and interns to help care for injured birds so they can heal and be released. Without volunteers and interns to reliably lend us their enthusiasm, skills, talents, and willingness to learn, we would not exist.

To all of our volunteers and interns – both past and present – the animals and we at Wild Bird Fund thank you for helping the wildlife in New York City stay wild.

About the Wild Bird Fund Volunteer Program

Our volunteer program offers the unique opportunity to learn how to rescue, care for, and rehabilitate New York City’s diverse wildlife. Our on-site volunteers are hands-on from day one, seeing to the daily needs of our many patients under the guidance of our team of rehabilitators, veterinarians, and animal care managers. You will learn:

  • The housing and feeding needs of many species of bird and mammal, from pigeons and squirrels to red-tailed hawks
  • Safe handling techniques for creatures as small as a house sparrow and as large as a mute swan
  • Essential medical care for injured and ill wildlife
  • Key techniques for identifying bird species and their needs in captivity
  • Conservation methods and habitat information essential for our patients who return to the wild
  • Skills and knowledge vital to the running of a wildlife rehab center serving over 5,000 patients a year
  • …and so much more!

While most volunteers choose to work on-site at the Center, we offer many off-site opportunities as well, such as education & outreach, grant writing, and social media, to name just a few.

Our volunteers come from a wide diversity of backgrounds, from students to professionals, from animal care novices to experienced wildlife care experts and everything in between! While many of our volunteers are involved in conservation or animal care in some capacity, this is not a requirement to join the program. All we ask is dedication, responsibility, and a desire to help NYC’s orphaned and injured wildlife.

We welcome you to attend one of our volunteer orientations to learn more about WBF and the program. Please read through each of the sections on the Volunteer Program page carefully before sending an email inquiry or registering for an orientation date.

Wild Bird Fund Volunteer Requirements

We expect our volunteers & internships to follow and demonstrate all of the Wild Bird Fund’s Volunteer Policies and Procedures in order to maintain a high standard of volunteer service, create a safe environment for the animals and clients we serve, and provide you with a positive experience. Please click here to see the full copy of the Wild Bird Fund Volunteer Policies and Procedures. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our volunteer coordinator at volunteers@wildbirdfund.org

All prospective volunteers must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • At least 16 years old
  • Up to date on tetanus shots
  • Volunteers should be able to commit four (4) hours per week for four (4) months
  • Attend a Wild Bird Fund General Information session
  • Submit a complete application
  • Complete a four-hour training session
  • Interns have the following requirements:
    • High School interns are required to complete 12 hours per week, for a total of 120 hours
    • College Undergraduate Interns are required to complete 16 hours per week, for a total of 160 hours
    • Graduate/Veterinary Interns are required to complete 20 hours per week, for a total of 200 hours total

Upon acceptance into the Volunteer Program, there is a $20 administrative fee to cover the costs of the program. This includes processing costs, issuance of your Volunteer ID badge, an official WBF Volunteer t-shirt, supplies, and your training sessions. Financial hardship scholarships may be available on a case-by-case basis and will be determined during the interview process.

Wild Bird Fund Volunteer Application Process

The volunteer application process can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks from the date of your Volunteer Orientation to the completion of your Training Shift. Please remember that we ask volunteers to commit to at least 4 months of service, and plan the timing of your application accordingly.

Volunteer Information Session

Our volunteer information sessions are open to anyone who is interested in volunteering at the Wild Bird Fund. These presentations consist of an information session on the Wild Bird Fund and our volunteer program, a tour of our facility, a pigeon handling demo, and a group interview. Overall, the sessions typically lasts around two and a half hours.

How to Sign Up for an Information Session

Volunteer information sessions are typically held on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Space is limited and is first-come, first-served, so please only reserve a spot if you are certain that you can attend, and are serious about your commitment to volunteering with us.

  • Information session dates will be posted on our website
  • Click the date that you wish to sign up for and follow the instructions on the form. If the date you select is full, please choose another date.
  • If you need to cancel due to an emergency or unforeseen conflict, please email us at volunteers@wildbirdfund.org right away so that we can open your spot to someone else. We ask that you let us know at least 48 hours in advance if at all possible. Remember, space is limited, and there are many people who want to attend these sessions!
  • If you do not show up for your information session date and do not contact us ahead of time, we may ask that you wait to sign up for another presentation for 30 days.

What is the group interview like?

The group interview is an informal conversation between information session attendees and the coordinator(s). Wildlife care is an exciting, dynamic field, and there are many unique opportunities open to our volunteers, but the environment can sometimes be challenging and high-stress. We want to make sure that we are a good fit for your volunteer needs, and that you are a good fit for ours! Some of the things we will talk about include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Any previous animal experience you have
  • How you feel about being around large numbers of birds
  • How you feel about cleaning
  • How you feel about humane euthanasia
  • Your goals in volunteering with WBF

Filling Out the Volunteer Application

Once you have attended a presentation and have determined that volunteering at WBF is right for you, and once we determine that you are a good fit for us, we will send you a volunteer application. We typically send applications out 24-48 hours after the presentation. The application consists of basic information, your availability, and some questions similar to the ones we ask during the group interview. There are no right or wrong answers – again, we want to make sure that you have a great experience volunteering at WBF! If we have any questions after reviewing your application, we will follow up with you via email.

Signing Up for your Training Shift

Once we have reviewed and approved your application, we will email you to invite you to sign up for a hands-on training shift, as well as pay a $20 volunteer program administrative fee*. Training shifts take place throughout the week, usually in the afternoon, and last 4 hours, just as a normal volunteer shift does. During training, you will:

  • Become more familiar with the Center and learn where things are located
  • Learn the basics of cage cleaning and feeding for pigeons
  • Practice pigeon handling and catch birds after free-flight

*Please note your training shift counts towards your total number of volunteer hours, and the $20 volunteer program administrative fee is used to cover the costs of the program. This includes processing costs, issuance of your Volunteer ID badge, an official WBF Volunteer t-shirt, supplies, and your training sessions. Financial hardship scholarships may be available on a case-by-case basis and will be determined during the interview process.

Your First Volunteer Shift

Once you have completed the above steps, you are considered an active volunteer at WBF.  and will receive your name badge and volunteer t-shirt. You can then sign up for volunteer shifts and participate in volunteer events and workshops.

Volunteer Information Dates

  • You must be at least 16 years to participate in our Volunteer Program.
  • Space is limited so please do not sign up more than once.
  • Please arrive early to sign in. We will be starting the orientations on time and will be unable to accept late attendees.
  • If you are registered for the orientation but are not able to attend, please e-mail us at volunteers@wildbirdfund.org to let us know.
  • For people who have signed up for an orientation, we will be sending you an e-mail with all of the orientation details approximately two days before the orientation date.
  • We will post the volunteer orientations for next month during the third week of the current month. (For example: by the third week of August, we’ll post the orientations for September).

All orientations take place at the Wild Bird Fund, located at 565 Columbus Avenue, between West 87 and 88 Streets.

Orientation sessions are currently full.  Please check back for updates!

Wild Bird Fund Common FAQs about our Volunteer Program

How long do I have to wait between applying and becoming a volunteer?

We typically ask volunteers to sign up for training shifts during the two weeks following the submission of your application. This process can sometimes take longer, depending on the number of new applicants.

I have a specific interest in learning one aspect of animal care, such as raptor handling. Can I train just for that task?

We believe that volunteers should be well-rounded in all aspects of animal care. You will learn to care for our many wild patients in a structured way, starting with hygiene, which is key to the success of any medical facility. During orientation you will hear about our Ladder of Learning, which describes the way in which you will gain new skills by building on previous tasks. We expect all volunteers to participate in keeping the center clean, but you will learn more advanced skills the longer you volunteer with us.

I do not wish to volunteer on-site at the Center. Can I volunteer off-site only?

Off-site volunteer opportunities are limited and vary by the time of year and our current volunteer needs. If you wish to volunteer off-site only, please email us at volunteers@wildbirdfund.org and let us know how you would like to volunteer, and we will tell you if we have any opportunities at the time. We are looking for off-site volunteers who already have some experience in their area of interest, e.g., grant writing, and we may ask for a resume depending on how you wish to volunteer.

If you wish to volunteer off-site ONLY, please do not sign up for an orientation date.

How do I become an intern?

We take a limited number of spring, summer, and autumn interns. At this time we can only accept college-age interns or those who are currently in a graduate program. We are looking for interns who are pursuing a career in wildlife care, veterinary medicine, and similar paths. If you are looking to intern with us, consider starting as a volunteer, as this will give you an advantage when starting your internship.

I am afraid of working with a certain kind of bird, i.e. hawks and falcons. Can I still volunteer?

We expect all volunteers & interns to be able to work with and around pigeons, songbirds, and domestic fowl. You do not need to work with the larger birds such as hawks and herons, but we encourage all volunteers to stretch themselves. You may find that you feel differently once you are comfortable working with smaller species!

Do I have to clean cages to volunteer?

All volunteers, staff, and rehabbers participate in cleaning around the Center. Cleanliness and hygiene are essential to successful wildlife rehabilitation.

What happens if I need to take a vacation or a long leave of absence from volunteering?

We understand that volunteers may occasionally need to take a break from volunteering. If you plan to take a leave of absence of a month or less, please email us to let us know how long you will be gone and when you plan to return. If you need to take a break for more than a month, we may need to ask you to attend a refresher training shift when you return. We ask that volunteers do not take a leave of absence during their first month of volunteering, as this is disruptive to your training and will make it difficult for you to pick up where you left off when you return. Please plan accordingly when you sign up for orientation.

About the Wild Bird Fund Internship Program

An internship at the Wild Bird Fund offers the rare opportunity for hands-on learning and experience with NYC’s wildlife. The internship program is geared towards enthusiastic, committed students and recent graduates who are pursuing a career in wildlife care, wildlife biology, environmental studies, and veterinary medicine. At the Wild Bird Fund, interns will develop a well-rounded understanding of wildlife care and rehabilitation, including:

  • The housing and feeding needs of many species of bird and mammal, from pigeons and squirrels to red-tailed hawks
  • Safe handling techniques for creatures as small as a house sparrow and as large as a mute swan
  • Essential medical care for injured and ill wildlife
  • Key techniques for identifying bird species and their needs in captivity
  • Conservation methods and habitat information essential for our patients who return to the wild
  • Skills and knowledge vital to the running of a wildlife rehab center serving over 5,000 patients a year
  • …and so much more!

In addition, interns will shadow wildlife rehabilitators, learning what it takes to care for injured and orphaned wildlife from the experts. WBF offers classes and workshops throughout the summer on topics like microscopy and lab work, animal nutrition, and bird migration science.

We offer three types of internship, based on your education level. Interns are encouraged to continue on as volunteers after their internships. Past interns have moved on to successful careers in wildlife biology and veterinary medicine. Some have become independent wildlife rehabbers, and some of our most successful interns join our team as staff members.

High School Juniors and Seniors
Our High School internship will help students develop basic wildlife care techniques, and is great for those who are exploring eventual careers in an animal care field. High school interns will learn animal husbandry, basic medical care, and baby bird feeding. High School interns are required to complete 12 hours per week, for 120 hours total.

College Undergraduates
Our Undergraduate internship is great for students who are actively pursuing an animal- or biology-focused curriculum. In addition to husbandry, medical care, and baby bird feeding, undergraduate interns will learn more intensive medical care techniques and will work with raptors and large waterfowl. College undergraduate interns are required to complete 16 hours per week, for 160 hours total.

Graduate/Veterinary Interns
Our Graduate/Veterinary internships focus on expanding the professional student’s knowledge and understanding of wildlife medicine. Interns at this level will works hands-on with rehabbers and veterinarians, and will assist with daily medical care, as well as general husbandry. Graduate/Veterinary Interns are required to complete 20 hours per week, for 200 hours total.

Wild Bird Fund Internship Application Process

If interested in an internship with us, please email volunteers@wildbirdfund.org for an application. Please note that spaces are limited.

We have two application cycles. Interns who wish to start their internships by early June must apply by May 1st. Decisions for the first cycle will go out by May 10th. Interns who wish to start their internships between June 15th-July 1st must apply by June 1st. Decisions for the second cycle will go out by June 10th.

High School interns must submit an application. You are also encouraged to submit a Statement of Purpose and a resume, if available.

Undergraduate interns must submit an application and a Statement of Purpose, and are encouraged to submit a resume if available.

Graduate and Veterinary interns must submit an application, a Statement of Purpose, and a resume.

The Statement of Purpose should be no more than 500 words, and should explain what you expect to achieve during your internship, and what your career goals are with regard to wildlife care.

If accepted, applicants will be invited to a 2-hour orientation and 4-hour training session. Orientations typically take place on Sunday, from 12-2pm. The training session can take place after orientation, or any time during the week after 12pm.

Applicants who are not accepted are encouraged to apply to volunteer with us. Volunteering is a great way to get more experience, and many of our volunteers go on to intern with us. Applicants are also welcome to re-apply for the next internship cycle.

Wild Bird Fund Common FAQs about our Internship Program

Can I get school credit for this internship?

We are happy to help you get school credit for your internship, when possible.  The student is responsible for getting the necessary forms and paperwork to WBF.  We reserve the right not to sign off on school credit if the individual school’s requirements are deemed inappropriate for our internship program.  Students are encouraged to discuss earning school credit with their advisors and WBF prior to their internship’s start date.

Will I be paid for my internship?

WBF internships are unpaid.

Can I do more than the required number of internship hours?

Absolutely!  The more time you spend at WBF, the more you will learn.  You will have documentation of all of your hours at WBF, above and beyond the minimum.

What if I can’t commit to the minimum hours per week or minimum total?

If you cannot commit to the minimum hours per week or minimum total hours, you are encouraged to apply to volunteer.  Interns who cannot meet the minimum may be asked to leave the program.

What if I have to go on vacation or take a short leave of absence?

If you are unable to fulfill your weekly commitment due to illness or unforeseen circumstances, we ask that you let us know via email.  This will not count against your internship commitment, provided you are able to complete your minimum total number of hours. Likewise, if you need to leave for a full week or more, we ask for advanced notice, and that you consider your minimum commitment when planning your summer.

What kind of support can I expect?

WBF is committed to helping our interns learn and grow into their chosen career fields.  Staff members will be on site every day to oversee interns, answer any questions you may have, and teach you new skills.  Wildlife rehabilitators are generally available from 2-8pm. If you need to work directly with a veterinarian (i.e., as an application requirement for vet school), please let us know when you apply.

I don’t have any animal experience.  Should I still apply?

We welcome students of all experience levels to apply.  If you do not have prior animal experience, you can tell us how your other work experience might help you in our clinic.  Or, you can let us know about other relevant life experiences in your Purpose Statement or on your resume. At the end of the day, we are looking for commitment, an eagerness to learn new skills, and the ability to work hard.

Types of Volunteers & Interns

Clinic

Work directly with the birds in the clinic, the waterfowl room and isolation room to clean cages, weigh, medicate, and keep records on injured birds.

Front Desk

Be the face of WBF by greeting visitors, discussing WBF’s mission, soliciting donations, overseeing new patient admission forms, and record keeping.

Outreach

Work offsite on fundraising and corporate outreach, event planning, grant writing, social networking, writing articles, or doing humane education at local schools.

Meet Some of Our Patients