If you are interested in volunteering with us, then this page aims to provide you with more information about what we offer and what we expect from volunteers, while telling you more about the role. First and foremost, you should consider what it is that you want to get out of being a volunteer, as well as what you can offer us in return. Please read this page carefully before making your decision. We do not guarantee being able to accept every candidate who offers to volunteer and there is a limit to how many volunteers we can have.
As we are a small team, unfortunately we are unable to accommodate work experience/placements or candidates who only want to do a set number of hours, such as for Duke of Edinburgh awards. We are sorry for any disappointment this may cause.
The recruitment of volunteers is at the discretion of the Centre’s Manager. There is no formal application process; anyone who wishes to volunteer with us is usually asked to come for a brief interview first. After this, you may be invited to spend a trial day with us so that a member of staff can show you around and introduce you to the sort of work you will be doing. Following this, if you do wish to volunteer on a regular basis, you will be invited to try an introductory period of around 6 to 8 weeks to see how you get on in the role. It will then be at the Manager’s discretion as to whether you may continue volunteering; unfortunately, not all candidates are suitable for the work involved and some choose not to continue of their own volition.
Candidates we are looking for
A typical working day at The Falconry Centre can often be busy and run according to a set schedule. We are, of course, very public facing. We are open to visitors every day. We are also conducting bird handling experiences, doing daily bird flying demonstrations, as well as answering visitor queries and serving customers in the gift shop. As such, there are a number of characteristics we are looking for in any candidate for volunteering.
- You must be reasonably outgoing, sociable, and confident at dealing with people, especially members of the public. A level of confidence, coupled with good communication skills, are needed to be able to serve customers and work effectively as part of our team.
- You should be able to work independently with minimal supervision. We are a very small team and we do not always have time to instruct or supervise you; you should be able to demonstrate capacity for using your initiative to find things to do, especially on our busier days (e.g. when experiences are running, weekends, school holidays, etc.). You will need a strong work ethic and a willingness to complete any task requested of you, and be able to complete your tasks within a reasonable period of time. As you become more familiar with your role, you will be entrusted with more interesting tasks and the possibility of hands-on work with feeding and flying the birds on your own.
- You must be prepared to work outdoors and in all weather conditions. Even when it is cold, wet, snowing, etc., our birds still need to be fed, flown, and cleaned up after. We are outside most of the time. It can obviously get very hot in summer and very cold in the winter!
- You cannot be squeamish; you must be prepared to handle the birds’ food. Our birds are obligate carnivores, which means they must eat raw meat, and they must eat whole animals. We feed our birds on dead animals (they come pre-deceased from a specialist supplier), including day old cockerel chicks, mice, rats, quail, grown-on chickens, fish, and venison. You should be prepared to handle and prepare raw meat, which can include such things as skinning and chopping up the food. It will also involve handling the frozen food each day to be laid out to defrost for the following day. These tasks are essential and cannot be avoided.
- You should be prepared to get your hands dirty. Most of the work you would be doing as a volunteer will involve cleaning up after the birds, which can be messy. Cleaning the overnight accommodation (mews and aviaries) is often very physical and very dirty, as you will need to be able to scrub the bird’s faeces off the perches and surfaces, as well as raking over gravel and washing out their baths. You will, however, get to do some nicer jobs as well, such as being involved with flying the birds and learning falconry skills, such as feeding birds on your glove, tying the falconer’s knot, helping with our flying demonstrations, feeding baby birds during breeding season, and taking part in other activities in and around the Visitor Centre. The longer you are here the more you will learn, and if there is anything you want to learn in particular, or if there is something you want to get involved with, just ask.
- You must be able to make a regular commitment over a long term. We do not accept applications from candidates who only want to do short periods of volunteering (e.g. six week school summer holidays or short fixed term placements). We generally look for candidates who can do one day per week regularly. We can accommodate flexible arrangements to fit around work or college commitments where necessary, and we will be happy to discuss this with you if you come in for an interview. The longer you are here the more you will learn, and you may even be able to pick up and fly birds on your own and get involved in doing demonstrations for visitors, if you wish to!
Role of a Volunteer
Volunteers act as support for our full-time members of staff, and will pick up many of the routine jobs that need to be done. Examples of the work carried out by volunteers include cleaning the mews (overnight accommodation for the birds), cleaning the overnight housing sheds, gardening, sweeping paths, food preparation for the birds, preparing refreshments for people on bird handling experiences, serving customers in the shop, cleaning the office, cleaning the staff room, cleaning the freezer shed, cleaning the shop, cleaning the aviaries, cleaning gauntlets (falconry gloves) and other falconry equipment, cleaning perches… oh, and did we mention, there’s usually a lot of cleaning to do?!
Regular work, such as cleaning and maintenance, is carried out in the mornings, and then we fly birds in the afternoon usually from 1pm, weather permitting. Some tasks need to be done daily (like cleaning the overnight accommodation) but every day is different and it will depend on what is going on at the Centre as to what jobs can and/or must be done.
Level of Commitment
We normally ask for volunteers to be able to commit to doing at least one day per week from 9:00am until around 4pm. Timings are not strict; you can come for as much or as little as you like, but the more you are able to commit to doing, the more we can teach you, and the more you will be able to do. Doing one regular day per week will assist in this, though we may accommodate volunteers working alternate weeks or on a flexible basis. Please keep in mind that weekends and school holidays are usually busier than term-time weekdays and this can mean that we have less time to show you how to do things during busy periods; we will always try, but there will be days when we cannot spend as much time with volunteers as we would like to.
The majority of our work is done outside, in all weathers, and sometimes in messy conditions. We suggest wearing weather-appropriate clothing that you do not mind getting dirty. A limited number of uniforms and our branded fleeces are available but are usually only given to regular volunteers after a few months of commitment to the role. Work boots, sturdy shoes, trainers or wellingtons are all appropriate footwear – sandals, flip-flops, high heels and open-toed shoes are not.
Flying & Handling Birds of Prey
Many potential volunteers who come to us do so because they have done or want to do a bird handling experience and think that we spend all day doing hands-on work with the birds, such as holding, flying or stroking them. This is far from the truth. In reality, we will not allow volunteers to hold or fly our birds of prey until we are confident in their ability to do so safely. Our primary concern is for the welfare of our birds. It is also important to note that our birds are not pets and we generally do not allow people to touch or stroke them. Stroking them can damage their feathers over time and most of them simply do not like it.
When possible, we do like to get volunteers involved in flying the birds with us but you should keep in mind that this is a bonus, not a right. We do not guarantee that you will get to fly birds every time you come to volunteer. Not all of our birds are suitable for handling and flying by volunteers in any event. We do try to fly birds with volunteers regularly as we know this is what most people come to us wanting to do, but we have to give priority to flying birds on experiences and/or for public demonstration.
Pressuring members of staff with regards to bird handling and flying is likely to have the opposite effect. It is extremely rare, but in the past, we have had to ask volunteers to leave because of their unrealistic expectations with regards to handling and flying our birds. If there is something that you would like to do, you can ask, but pestering our staff about being allowed to hold and fly birds will not work!
When we can, we will teach you how to pick up, tether, feed, handle and fly some of our birds of prey – however, this can take a lot of time and practice to get it right. If we are busy we may not always have time to spend teaching you things, so we ask you to be patient in this regard.
Frequently Asked Questions:
I want to get my own bird of prey – can I come and volunteer for a few weeks to learn about what I need to do?
If you want to get your own bird of prey, we recommend instead that you do a professional training course. Many such courses are available and the best place to look is online. For example, we recommend looking up “Raptor Awards” to find an appropriate mentor in your area. We do not train people in how to care for their own bird of prey and to avoid any legal liability issues we do not offer any advice to people in this regard either.
How old do I have to be to volunteer?
Volunteering is suitable for virtually any age, but our minimum requirement is 16. You should be relatively physically fit and able, as some elements of the work will involve standing for long periods, bending, lifting, and walking around.
I have to do work experience / I have to do a set number of hours of volunteering – do you offer placements?
We do not offer work placements or work experience for a set amount of time, particularly short-term placements such as a week, or for only a set number of hours, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. We prefer to invest our time in training volunteers who are committed to working with us for longer periods of time.
Do I need any qualifications / can I earn a qualification?
No qualifications are needed as we will teach you what you need to know. We do not offer any formal qualification/training scheme at this time; if this is something you are interested in you should consider looking at doing a formal training course, as mentioned above.
I just want to fly the birds, I don’t want to do anything else – can I just volunteer in the afternoon when you are flying them?
In a word – NO! Being asked to help with flying and feeding the birds is a privilege and a reward for the hard work put in by our volunteers. If you do not want to get your hands dirty and are only interested in flying the birds, we suggest you book one of our Bird Handling Experiences instead.
Okay, you haven’t put me off – I still want to volunteer. What do I do now?
Please get in touch and let us know! The best thing to do is to either e-mail us at email@example.com. Tell us a little bit about yourself, why you want to volunteer, and when you will be available for an interview. We can arrange an appropriate date with you so that you can come to the Centre for your interview, before we then arrange an introductory trial day for you, and you then decide whether to commit to regular volunteering. Thank you!