Volunteer Training

BBO is restructuring its volunteer program with an emphasis on the Scribe and Net Check Assistant positions, which is where we need the help the most! The new positions have position-specific structured training and quizzes for each position, which can be found in detail below. Note that regardless of experience level, we require all our volunteers to go through this training. 

The schedule will have Scribe and Net Check Assistant positions on regular days. The extractor and bander positions are mostly for our tracking of your skill levels; however, they will be used for some of our bigger events when we need those specific skills. 

To qualify for a given role, you must meet all the expectations listed below. For the Net Check Assistant and Banding Assistant roles, that means you will only be eligible for them once we have assessed your abilities in the field. We recommend completing the training quizzes and PowerPoints after you've met the hands-on criteria for this roles in the field!

Owl training will be provided closer to the owl season, which starts in September. The owl volunteer shifts are quite different than the songbird shifts. You must gain skills with songbird handling and assisting with events before being approved for owl shifts.

Reach out to Jon (assistant.biologist@beaverhillbirds.com) or Jana (biologist@beaverhillbirds.com) if you have any questions!

Volunteer Roles and Training Materials

General Volunteer
• Become a member of the Beaverhill Bird Observatory – sign up here!
• Fill out the BBO Volunteer Liability Waiver

• Assist with tasks unrelated to bird banding such as the following:
     • Trail maintenance
     • Facilities maintenance
     • Other general labour

Note that General Volunteer shifts will usually be scheduled through Volunteer Signup and not the WhenToHelp portal. Links to sign up for these shifts will be sent out separately via email.

• Become a member of the Beaverhill Bird Observatory – sign up here!
• Fill out the BBO Volunteer Liability Waiver
• Read the Introduction to Scribing PowerPoint
• Get all questions correct on the Scribing Quiz (you can retake it multiple times if needed)
• You must complete these requirements before you can sign up for your first Scribe shift!

• Record data during bird banding by entering it into a computer spreadsheet
• Alert staff members if any data are missed or appear to be incorrect
• Learn basic grips and bird handling – bander’s grip, photographer’s grip, transferring birds from one hand to another

Training Materials:
Introduction to Scribing

Scribing Quiz

Net Check Assistant
• Must be confident holding birds in the bander’s grip and the photographer’s grip
• Must be able to confidently transfer a bird from one hand to another
• Must have read the Introduction to Net Checks PowerPoint and the Introduction to Extracting PowerPoint
• Must get all questions correct on the Net Checks and Extracting Quiz (you can retake it multiple times if needed)
• Complete the PowerPoint trainings and quiz after we have approved your bird handling skills in the field

Training Materials
Introduction to Net Checks
Introduction to Extracting

Net Checks and Extracting Quiz

• Extraction times fit the following criteria for most birds:
     • Unentangled birds (level 1) are extracted in 1 minute or less
     • Lightly tangled birds (level 2) are extracted in 2 minutes or less
     • Heavily tangled birds (level 3) are extracted in 5 minutes or less
• Demonstrates good judgment and always calls for help when needed
• Shows proficiency with both the feet first and body grasp methods of extraction

• Conduct net checks unassisted by a staff member
• Open or close nets in response to changing weather conditions or bird volume

Banding Assistant
• Able to identify the top 20 species captured at the BBO and >80% of all other passerine species found in the area, including difficult identifications like fall warblers and sparrows
• Must read and understand the first 40 pages of Pyle, Introduction to Banding PowerPoint, Introduction to Ageing + Sexing PowerPoint, WRP PowerPoint, and How to Use Pyle PowerPoint
• Must understand bird molt cycles and the role they play in ageing
• Must get all questions correct on the Banding Quiz and Species ID Quiz (you can retake it multiple times if needed)
• Complete the PowerPoint trainings, quizzes, and begin reading the first 40 pages of Pyle after we have approved your bird handling skills in the field. Banding Assistant shifts will be available later in the season, and only on certain days, the primary focus will be on training volunteers as Extractors first.

Training Materials
• First 40 pages of Pyle (2022) – these are available at the lab
Introduction to Ageing and Sexing
Introduction to Banding
Introduction to Pyle
Introduction to WRP
Top 20 Species List

Banding Quiz
Species ID Quiz

Permitted Bander
• Possesses a Canadian federal banding permit or sub-permit
• Processes most birds in under 4 minutes
• Shows a high rate of accuracy (>80%) with all measurements and age / sex determinations
• Is proficient with both the WRP and Humphrey-Parkes ageing systems
• Does not commit any species identification errors during banding
• Meets the NABC criteria for bander certification (refer to the NABC Bander's Study Guide)

• Process birds captured during station operations unassisted by a staff member
• Track net opening and closing times
• Tally banding totals the end of the day and record a daily log of all banding activities