Julia Kittelson

“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

  1. She is an avid reader of science fiction.
  2. She is native to the deserts of California.
  3. She once caught a bobwhite out of the air one-handed.
  4. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking in the hills with her family.



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Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing or go on a 3D safari. Our very own old west ghost town as numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

Don't miss your chance to Pet a Python!  Our snake handlers ar here to talk about any questions or myths you've heard about snakes. Don't forget your camera! Our pythons are very photogenic and love to photos with you!