Audubon plans for bird sanctuary and owl release

By Deb Whitaker

The end of January, at an informal fiesta, April Gaydos, President of Audubon, announced plans for an Audubon Bird Sanctuary to be named in honor of Linda Whynman, President Emeritus of Audubon. At that event gracious supporters of this program helped raised over US$4,000.

The next step was to determine the actual location of the sanctuary. And when the developers of Los Labradores, Eric Cházaro and his father, Sergio, offered a location there, that was that! Both Cházaros have been important and long-time supporters of Audubon.

As plans got underway to create a steering committee and to do much needed research, one of those wonderful and timely miracles that are wont to happen in San Miguel occurred.

At the end of March, Linda Whynman received a call from the SPA informing her that a small baby owl had been left on their doorstep. The SPA’s Sandra Rosado Price says that when they discovered the box on their doorstep, they had assumed that they’d find a kitten or a puppy inside. But instead, it was a baby barn owl!

With the help of SPA volunteers Megan Gables and Helen Dixon, the SPA contacted Audubon and Linda, who after doing some quick research, discovered that owls do not drink water, but blood instead. And they eat mostly fresh killed mice and chicken. Linda took small owl from the SPA and housed it in a large cage at her home, and began to feed it a slurry of chicken livers and chicken.

The next phase of the rescue began when Deborah Whitaker, another avid Audubon supporter and bird enthusiast, drew upon the expertise of Doctor Robert Merrill, who graciously took the baby owl in to his Animal Hospital on the Salida a Celaya, where it was cared for by Dr. Merrill’s son and daughter, Ricardo Colleman Merrill Vasquez and Karen Merrill Vasquez, both of whom have completed their studies in animal care at the Universidad Autónama de Querétaro.

And as luck would have it, Laura Bolaños Aguilar, who was also a student at the same university with the same major, was currently working with Audubon on educational school presentations, so she was able to join the team to watch over the young owl.

To date the little owl is growing and eating well. Secondary feathers are coming in steadily, and it is eating up to two freshly killed mice a day and becoming quite vocal making hissing noises and sounds when upset or hungry. The availability of mice is plentiful since Ricardo is capturing them in the grassy fields in front of the hospital.

Deborah Whitaker has been instrumental in the purchase of a web cam, which Audubon hopes to install in the barns near the Dos Bujos Winery on the Salida a Querétaro. An auspicious partnership was created with the owner of Dos Bujos, Diane Maycotte, at a recent Audubon outing and discussions are currently underway to not only install the webcam in the barn but also to release the baby owl there when it is ready and feeding on its own.

The Sanctuary steering committee, which will meet in early May, will be composed of Audubon Bird Guides, Linda Whynman, Deborah Whitaker, the Merrills and the Cházaros. Anne Kindler, a trained bird rehabilitator from Cornell and other wildlife refuges, will also be involved. The Sanctuary hopes to offer a healthy place for birds to live out their lives if their owners pre-decease them, as can be the case with parrots, which have very long life spans. It is also hoped that the Sanctuary will care for and rehabilitate wounded wild birds and release them back into their habitats once they have recovered. And finally, the Sanctuary is viewed as a wonderful educational site for presentations and outings. This last goal parallels Audubon’s signature program: Kids and Nature.

If you would like to visit this little owl, you can see him at the Merrills’ Animal Hospital. If you would like to make a donation to this very special cause, please contact either Linda Whynman ( or Deborah Whitaker (


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