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Volunteer Spotlight: Banding Birds for Research with Kellie

Join us as we shine a light on Pottawattamie Conservation volunteers to thank them for their time and talents and recognize the difference they make in our community. Our volunteers ROCK!

Below, take a moment to meet Pottawattamie Conservation volunteer, Kellie:

Kellie with a hawk and Saw-whet owl she helped band at Hitchcock Nature Center.

How long Kellie has volunteered with us:

Kellie has been volunteering her time as a bird banding apprentice at Hitchcock Nature Center since 2018, gaining experience with banding songbirds, owls, and diurnal raptors like the Red-tailed Hawk throughout the years. 
Bird banding involves ethically handling wild birds in order to collect data about them for conservation purposes. This involves safely capturing wild birds, placing a band on their foot with a unique ID number, recording information about size and health, then releasing them once this data is recorded. If a bird is ever captured again or is found in the wild by a non-bander, the number on the bird's band can be reported to the Bird Banding Lab where we can track where the bird was found and learn more about how long birds in the wild can live.
Kellie’s work plays a vital role in our HawkWatch volunteer program. This avid group of birders comes together every fall season to monitor the fall migration of raptors including the Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, or Sharp-shinned Hawk as they head south for winter. Hitchcock Nature Center is an optimal location to view this annual migration as birds take advantage of the westerly winds and vortex-like thermals (updrafts that pull birds up into the sky without them needing to exude much energy) that form in this area of the Missouri River Valley.

Why Kellie volunteers: 

“Bird migration in the Loess Hills is under-studied when compared to other areas like the coasts. It's exciting to contribute to areas of research where very real knowledge gaps exist, and to have that effort really count towards conservation of birds that live or travel through here.”


What she’s learned while volunteering:

“For one, I've learned a lot about handling wild birds, and a lot about raptor migration! On a deeper level, I've learned a lot about my own strengths and weaknesses. A lot of what you learn about yourself through bird banding has direct applications to other parts of life.”

Something interesting about Kellie:

Kellie isn’t just partial to raptors, she also loves bumble bees! Last year she worked as a bumble bee technician who studied their habits, and over the years has spent a lot of her time conducting bumble bee surveys across Nebraska and Iowa. As habitat destruction like housing and commercial development hurt populations of invertebrates that we rely on to survive, she’s found insect conservation work to be especially meaningful.
Volunteers like Kellie make a huge difference for our small organization by keeping our parks beautiful, providing a great experience for visitors, and supporting local conservation efforts that protect wildlife, pollinators, and us humans, too! Their dedication, along with all of our other amazing volunteers, allows us to reach more people about the importance of natural spaces and be good stewards of the land. We truly couldn't do it without our passionate volunteers and can't thank them enough for everything they do to support conservation work.

Explore Volunteer Opportunities & Apply Today

We are always looking for new faces to help us keep Pottawattamie Conservation parks beautiful and educate the public. Whether you prefer outdoors or indoors, our volunteer opportunities provide impactful ways for you to make a difference, connect with nature and support our community.

Regular volunteers have the option of setting their own schedule and are rewarded with educational opportunities and other benefits. Volunteers also receive an annual park permit and a discount on gift shop merchandise as a thank you for their efforts.

For more information on volunteer opportunities or to schedule a private volunteer project please contact Dana Kruse, Volunteer and Facilities Coordinator at (712) 545-3283 or email him at

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