“It’s sort of like being a janitor who is occasionally an air traffic controller.”
Position: Curator of Birds
Responsibilities: Managing the avian collection, orchestrating bird shows, and ensuring the birds and bird staff are enriched.
Julia always knew that she would work with animals, but she didn’t know what kind of animals until one fateful day in college when she was helping to set up for an ornithology lab. She opened a specimen drawer and saw an Asian Fairy-bluebird. It was exquisite.
The atmosphere in the bird department is generally busy, noisy, and energetic, as are many of the animals they care for. The most important task is preparing for “The Show,” but there are thousands of other things to be done. Staff regularly accompany birds on walks, scrub enclosures, perform health checks, create toys to keep the parrots engaged, and occasionally sprint into the hills after a wayward bird with a radio receiver in hand.
Best part of the job:
Working at Reptile Gardens is too much fun to just have one “best thing,” so here are three:
“First off, the gasp you hear from the audience when a particularly impressive bird comes onstage. Second, that moment when a bird you have been training for weeks successfully performs its goal behavior. To a casual observer, it might just look like a pheasant ran across the stage, but the first time it happens perfectly, all us bird trainers are gleefully jumping and high-fiving each other... Then there’s seeing the Guests light up when they’re right next to a living, breathing bird. They smile, they share stories – which makes me smile! There’s a feedback loop of energy and curiosity, and it’s just terrific.”
Things to know about Julia
- She is an avid reader of science fiction.
- She is native to the deserts of California.
- She once caught a bobwhite out of the air one-handed.
- Outside of work, she enjoys hiking in the hills with her family.