Year zoo career began:
Kirby Pitchford is an aviculturist at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. In his current position, he cares for free-flighted birds, sloths, and golden lion tamarins in a walkthrough Amazonian rainforest exhibit as well as alcids in a seabird exhibit. His daily tasks include feeding the animals, cleaning and maintaining exhibits, training husbandry behaviors, and keeping animal records. Kirby is the secretary for the Charadriiformes Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) and is involved with the Ratite TAG, CP&P TAG, and the North American Songbird SAFE. He is also currently enrolled at Auburn University at Montgomery working on a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in biology and museum studies.
Kirby’s first animal experience was volunteering at a local dog shelter in high school. He began volunteering as a docent at the Montgomery Zoo right after high school and during college, where he took care of ambassador animals and gave public presentations. After interning in the animal care department during the summer of 2016, he was hired as a full-time zookeeper and worked with mainly South American animals for two years while still taking classes part time. In 2018, he began working at the Birmingham Zoo before deciding to teach high school as a long-term substitute science teacher. After six months in public education, he moved to his current position at the National Aquarium in March 2020.
Kirby’s favorite part of the job is the connection he builds with the animals. He loves the feeling when he gains the trust of an animal that was previously shy and finally accomplishes a training goal that initially seemed impossible. He recommends that aspiring zookeepers try to maintain a work-life balance and develop skills and keep interests outside of animal care that feed your spirit. In his free time, Kirby is a classically trained clarinetist and a drag queen and feels that his creative hobbies keep life interesting and help him feel refreshed and eager when he comes back to work.