Volunteer with us

Would you like to get up close and personal with birds but lack the professional qualifications for a paid position? Every year, PIBO welcomes volunteers to their banding and migration monitoring teams during the spring field season—early April to early June—as well as the fall field season—early August to mid-November. You can come for a week or several weeks. What we are looking for are individuals who are keen birders, ideally with some fieldwork experience in banding songbirds, but we also accept those who are willing and eager to learn.

As a volunteer, you will report to the Field Biologist who provides training and advises on PIBO protocols. Be prepared to work long hours, seven days a week, assisting with various migration monitoring programs. The learning and satisfactions are legion.

These are unpaid positions. We offer free rent in our staff house, in return for doing your share of the daily upkeep, cooking, cleaning, etc. Food and transportation are your responsibility.

Field Coordinator Graeme Gibson the younger (right) instructs a young birder on the finer points of banding.

2019 volunteer Shane Abernathy helps prepare nets for banding.

Allessandra Wilcox, Assistant Field Biologist, Summer 2022

“Monitoring the purple martin colony has been one of the highlights of my work on Pelee. It has given me a new perspective on the dedication and hardships that breeding birds must undertake in order to survive. Frequently observing such intimate behavior, and detailing of the life cycle of such an incredible species, is an experience that I will never forget.”

Applications now being accepted for:

Volunteer Avian Field Assistant for Spring or Fall Field Season

(April 15-May 31, 2023) and (August 1 – October 31, 2023)

One-week positions: for inexperienced banders
Two-three-week positions: for those with some experience.
Location: Pelee Island, Ontario
Application deadline: March 1, 2023, and July 1, 2023

Fieldwork Duties:

As a Volunteer Avian Field Assistant (VAFA), you will assist the Field Biologist and Assistant Field Biologist with mist netting and bird banding every morning. Depending on your previous experience, you will help conduct the daily census, and extract birds from nets and band them. You will also be required to perform other duties associated with PIBO’s migration-monitoring program.
As well, all volunteers will be responsible for helping with the daily chores at the PIBO staff house: cooking, cleaning, dish-washing and general clean-up, shopping, taking out compost, driving trash to the landfill, and so on.


Volunteers will be provided with free housing on the island. Cooking facilities are provided, but you’ll need to shop for your own groceries. Transportation to and from Pelee Island is also the responsibility of the volunteer. Volunteers should bring their own field gear, including binoculars, hiking boots, rubber boots, mosquito hats/shirts, and clothing for warm or cold, dry or wet, weather. This position starts in April, when the weather can still be quite chilly, especially early in the morning when the mist nets go up. But by mid-May it will start to get warm in the afternoons. A driver’s license is helpful but not essential.
Please note that to do the kind of fieldwork we do on the island, you must be comfortable with snakes, spiders, and biting insects. You must be an early-riser and be able to work with others, and be mature and dependable. Work starts almost every day before dawn. Most afternoons will be free time, apart from data entry and station upkeep.


The Volunteer Avian Field Assistant will:

  • have some songbird banding and net extraction experience
  • be familiar with most birds of the Great Lakes region
  • be sociable and congenial, since the VAFA is required to assist with welcoming visitors at the banding station
  • assist with the upkeep of the PIBO staff accommodation and field station, help with shopping, cleaning, etc.
  • assist with PIBO island education programs and events, such as banding demonstrations, etc.

Please send cover letter and resume to Suzanne Friemann, Executive Director, Pelee Island Bird Observatory, at , by March 1, 2023.
If you wish to apply for a Volunteer position during the Fall season (August 1 – October 31, 2023), send your cover letter and resume to Suzanne by July 1, 2023.