Intern To Learn: Bird Rescue’s Wildlife Internship Program

On Intern Genyss Duncan’s first official day, she dove right into a major California Brown Pelican crisis during the summer of 2022. Photo: Ariana Gastelum – International Bird Rescue

The internship program at International Bird Rescue is a rigorous, hands-on learning program that immerses participants in every aspect of the operation of an aquatic bird hospital.

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The nature of wildlife rehabilitation requires many of the same skills that are required in an oil spill, and interns who are able to adjust to the pace and volume of the peak season caseload have an advantage in adapting successfully to working in an oil spill response.

Each hospital is staffed daily with at least two experienced Rehabilitation Technicians who oversee case management and facilitate the learning processes of interns and volunteers. Although interns will sometimes interact with the staff veterinarian, this is a rehabilitation, not a veterinary, internship. Interns in the rehabilitation program receive a small stipend to help cover personal costs during this three to six month internship.

Most common aquatic bird patients: herons, egrets, waterfowl, shorebirds, loons, grebes, murres and other alcids, gulls, pelicans, cormorants, and the occasional tubenose.

Intern Kelly Floriman helping wash an oiled Brown Peilcan.

The Los Angeles facility is located on a scenic bluff overlooking the ocean in San Pedro, CA. This center has a consistent influx of animals year round, with the busiest seasons often occurring in the summer and winter months. Summers feature large numbers of Brown Pelicans, while winters feature diving birds oiled from natural oil seeps off the Southern California coast.

The San Francisco Bay-Delta facility is located in Fairfield, CA, approximately one hour northeast of San Francisco, on the edge of Suisun Marsh, one of the largest wetland ecosystems in the world. Spring and summer are the busiest seasons because of a large influx of aquatic baby birds. Generally, this center raises >300 heron and egret chicks, >1,200 ducklings, and dozens of shorebirds.

Intern activities, benefits, and learning opportunities

  • Handling techniques
  • Herd health management
  • Intensive/critical care including tube feeding, fluid therapy, taking blood samples, performing exams, and triage
  • Oiled animal rehabilitation (mostly winter)
  • Orphan rearing (between May and July)
  • Pelagic bird care (mostly winter)
  • Individual case management (fractures, fishhook and line injuries, road strikes, predator attacks, etc.)
  • Release rehabilitated birds back to the wild
  • Species specific dietary/caging/aviary needs
  • Facilities/pool maintenance
  • Dirty work including cleaning, laundry, dishes, and handling fish to feed patients
  • Participate in wildlife training sessions
  • Potential to join oil spill response team
  • Career network with spill response and rehabilitation professionals, veterinarians, and researchers

Housing/transportation

Both centers offer very limited housing with local volunteers.  Do not count on this option to be available when you apply!  You must have your own vehicle to get to and from the center.

Interns are encouraged to reside locally and arrange for their own housing.  We suggest using Airbnb, subletting an apartment, renting a room, or staying with a friend or relative nearby.  Make sure to consider the commute between your living quarters and the center when researching places to stay.

Internship Parameters

Time commitment: Minimum of three months at 4 days per week from 8 AM until closing.  Day lengths vary seasonally, ranging from 8-12 hrs/day.  Any season may present unpredictable emergencies, such as oil spills or disease outbreaks. Interns are expected to participate in the on-site response to such emergencies and may be asked to respond off-site if necessary, at Bird Rescue’s expense.

Requirements: Previous experience handling wild birds is helpful, but not a prerequisite. The most important characteristics we look for in interns include the capacity to learn, respect for the animals, enthusiasm for the process of rehabilitation, and a willingness to complete tasks in both a team and individual environment.  We accept applications from prospective interns from all over the world.  You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of your proposed start date and have a valid form of ID (license/state ID for domestic interns or passport for international interns).

How to apply

To apply for an internship, please submit your application using the online form.  Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Applications require:

1. A letter of interest, including: your background/relevant interests; a description of why you would like to intern with us specifically; any additional details that we should know (ex. explanations for alternative time frames of less than 3 months)

2. A resume or curriculum vitae including a list of references

Application Process: After reviewing your application, you will be notified by email to let you know whether or not you have been selected for a phone interview.  After reviewing your interview, you will be notified by email to let you know if you have been accepted to the program or not.

For questions or comments, contact us at internships@birdrescue.org

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Introduction to International Bird Rescue

International Bird Rescue is a global conservation organization for birds in a changing world. Since 1971, Bird Rescue has responded to over 250 oil spills and other wildlife emergencies, caring for more than 160,000 birds on six continents. With crisis response centers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Anchorage, the organization specializes in emergency preparedness and response, day-to-day aquatic bird care, and scientific research. Innovations are shared worldwide to inspire the next generation of wildlife specialists. Bird Rescue aims to give a voice to waterbirds through conservation, advocacy, and wildlife literacy that builds empathy and encourages action.

Both California facilities are open 365 days a year, offer internship positions year-round and provide a rewarding learning experience in the field of aquatic bird rehabilitation.