The zoo is open! All visitors will require free entry passes and be required to follow safety measures. Free timed-entry Asia Trail/Panda Passes are required for the giant panda viewing.

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Bird Banding Assistant Volunteer

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is recruiting volunteers to assist in an exciting new wild bird-banding project at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. Wild birds are caught in mist nets throughout the Zoo, color-banded during public banding demonstrations, released and monitored throughout the year. This project will inform the development of the Experience Migration Tracking Station (open to the public in the spring of 2020), provide valuable information regarding the health of wild birds at the Zoo and advance scientists' understanding of the ecology and conservation of birds in urban environments.

Under the guidance of Migratory Bird Center staff, volunteers will develop field skills, including the extraction of birds from nets and bird-handling techniques. Available shifts are Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers are asked to commit one or two days per week for at least one year.

Age Range: 




Special qualifications: 

As this position will require carrying equipment and walking distances of up to 3 miles per day, including across steep and uneven terrain, volunteers must be physically fit and able to lift up to 30 pounds. Volunteers must also be reliable, detail-oriented and willing to work under a variety of weather conditions. Computer skills, the ability to identify birds common to Washington, D.C., and an interest in avian ecology is preferred. Previous field experience with wild birds is not required.


Once provisionally accepted, volunteers must complete mandatory online orientation and training. Considerable training on bird handling and the extraction of birds from nets will be provided on the job by Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center staff. Bird banding is often a difficult skill to learn. As such, there is a three-month probationary period for this position.


Washington DC




Zoo Support

Contact phone: 


Additional information: 

These positions are highly competitive, and there are limited spaces available. Submission of an application is not a guarantee of placement. Applicants will be interviewed by Migratory Bird Center staff, and those who are provisionally accepted will undergo background checks, including fingerprinting, as a requirement for approval. Once accepted, volunteers must submit proof of required vaccinations, including tetanus and a negative TB test, to the Zoo's health unit.