Bird Monitoring & Research

Interns participate in the bird banding project and gain theoretical and practical knowledge in tropical bird biology and avian monitoring techniques.

The Banding Project

The biological station Un poco del Chocó has started a longterm-bird monitoring program in August 2014. During six banding sessions per year the birds in the nature reserve are captured with mistnets and banded. Each banding session is operated in 10 different locations throughout the reserve, covering primary forest, secondary forest and edge habitat. Hence the variety of bird species captured is quite high. So far over 60 different bird species could be banded.

The purpose of this research is to study the understory bird populations in the reserve, to assess survival and recruitment rates and to relate this data to the environment. Furthermore the ecology of many tropical bird species is still poorly known (e.g. molt patterns and strategies). Therefore this study also aims to fill gaps in our knowledge on tropical bird ecology.

The Monitoring Project 

The monitoring project takes place three times per year. Each monitoring unit consists of two field sessions which last three weeks each. In between the field sessions there is a two-week break. During this time the biological station offers a tropical ecology course.

Thus interns can either participate in one or two field session and they can furthermore combine their internship with the participation in the tropical ecology course.


How much do I have to work?

As a volunteer you work at Un poco del Chocó from Monday till Friday from 8 am until 1 pm. The afternoon and weekends are free.

The reduced costs for volunteers are based on your commitment and help. As a volunteer you are required to help us with our work on weekdays for five hours. Sometimes this also means to work in rain or hot and sunny conditions. We don’t want to scare you, as you also should have fun working with us. If possible, we try to give you work you like. You will also have a lot of free time. In the afternoon or on weekends you’ll have plenty of time to travel, explore the reserve or simply relax in one of our hammocks.

Should I get there at a certain time?

We prefer that students or volunteers arrive at Un poco del Chocó between Monday and Thursday, if possible before 8 pm.

If your flight gets in later or on the weekend, you should plan on staying in Quito for a night. Recommendations for hostels you’ll find below! Most hostels offer a pick-up-service from the airport (25-35$). But you can also take the Aeroservicio shuttle bus (one-way 8$, tickets online or on arrival at the airport) to the old airport in Quito city and then take a taxi from there (costs between 4-8$ depending on location of hostel).

To get to the bus terminal “La Ofelia” you can get a taxi or the Metro-bus, although we don't recommend the latter if you are travelling with a lot of luggage (pick pockets!).

What's the rainy season like? Does it rain all day?

The rainy season starts in February and lasts until May.

Although at the beginning we can also have some rain in the morning, in general the rainy season is characterized by a sunny or at least dry morning and (sometimes heavy) rain falls in the afternoon. 

Which vaccines do I need?

Which vaccines are necessary for visiting Ecuador depends on how you’re travelling and on the regions you’re travelling to. In any case you should check your tetanus and diphtheria vaccine protection and you should get a typhoid and a hepatitis A (and B) vaccine. You don’t need a yellow fever vaccine unless you’re travelling to the Amazon. It is not necessary to get a rabies vaccine or to take malaria prophylaxis pills for a stay at Un poco del Chocó. If you plan to travel to malaria risk areas you should bring a stand-by medication (e.g. Malarone). 

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Suitable for


Typical day

Work schedule

The biological internship will start with two days of mostly theoretical introduction to bird banding. Interns will gain knowledge on monitoring techniques and bird banding, and how to install, open, and close mist nets.

On the banding days we will open mist nets on ten mornings at ten different locations from approx. 6-11 am. This means that we will have to be at the banding location 15 minutes earlier to open nets. Once the nets are open they will be checked every 30 minutes. We will go on net rounds to check for birds, extract them and bring them back to the banding station. Here birds will be banded, measured, and we will assess ecological data (sex, age, parasites, fat, molt). Nets will be closed after five hours. Afterwards nets will be taken down and will be installed at the next location.

Furthermore students will participate in two bird censuses and help count birds.

Program Requirements

Minimum Age
In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s).
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Health Declaration
Education Requirements
Biology at University level
Required Documents
Application form
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Previous experience with bird handling, banding or mistnetting is favorable but not required.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 05:30 - 12:30

Any questions? Just ask. We at Un poco del Chocó are happy to help you.

Free-time activities

In your freetime you can explore the reserve, have a swim in the river or visit a nearby waterfall.
For a weekend-trip we can recommend the nearby village Las Tolas. You can stay with a family and get an insight to rural Ecuadorian life. The community tourism project offers different activities. You can visit the ecological jewelry work shop, a coffee plantation, one of the waterfalls or the archeological museum in Tulipe.
Otavalo with its indigenous crafts market or Mindo with its different outdoor activities are also worth a trip.



What's included?
This includes food & lodging at the biological station, professional training and equipment, on-site transportation and taxes.
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.

Our students will be lodged at the station house. On the upper floor there are four double rooms with bunk beds. Two rooms have bunk beds with a lower double-sized mattress, so we can also host couples. Downstairs you'll find the kitchen, dining area and a small laboratory. There are two warm-water showers right next to the main house. The toilets are outside: 10 meters away from the main house we have three outhouses. On the balconies, you can enjoy the view of the forest canopy.

Bedroom (Double)
Food & Beverages

Lunch and dinner will be prepared from Monday to Friday. All other meals (breakfast or food on weekends) you have to prepare yourself or with your house mates.
The food is mostly vegetarian. We cook typical Ecuadorian food (rice, plantains, legumes, yucca etc,) as well as pasta, potatoes and lots of vegetables. Costs for food include three meals. For those who like to eat sweets or snacks we sell a small variety at the station!

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
Costs (Prices in USD)
3 weeks (min. stay)
4 weeks
5 weeks
6 weeks (max. stay)

You can volunteer at the project site in Las Tolas/Ecuador between 3 weeks and 6 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Un poco del Chocó will tell you your final price during your application process.
Average Fees
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Un poco del Chocó during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Get ready to volunteer in Ecuador

Check out first

Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for Ecuador. Please check the visa regulations for Ecuador.
Travel Seasons
Find out the best time to volunteer in Ecuador and receive information on weather and climatic conditions.
Living Costs
Living costs vary with each destination. We give an overview of what you should plan as an estimated budget to volunteer in Ecuador.
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Ecuador.

What's next?

The nearest airport is Mariscal Sucre (UIO) in Quito. We assist you to find cheap flights to Ecuador.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Ecuador provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccine Checker
If you are intending to volunteer in Ecuador you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Ecuador.
What can you do in leisure-time in Ecuador while you are not working at your volunteer opportunity?
Las Tolas, Las Tolas, Ecuador

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