A woman in Mexico City heals hummingbirds and gets well in return

A woman in Mexico City heals hummingbirds and gets well in return

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Katya Lattouf says, gently holding a baby hummingbird in her hands, “Hi, cute little guy. which has returned to health over the past decade.

Under the petting of a fluff, the bird relaxes little by little, allowing her to evaluate it. The young man who rescued her after she fell out of a nest in his yard was watching intently.

“It’s a broad-billed hummingbird,” said the 73-year-old Lattouf, moving the dropper to her beak. “Oh, mamma, do you want to eat!”

That’s often been the way Latuff has been since she turned her apartment in Mexico City’s Polanco neighborhood into a clinic for sick or injured hummingbirds or infants, about 60 of which are currently on the move.

Lattouf, who studied French literature, has become a reference source for bird lovers, amateur and professional alike, across Mexico and other parts of Latin America.

Her improvised clinic also supports more formal institutions such as the Iztacala campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, to which she sometimes refers cases due to a lack of resources, time and space, said one of her researchers, ornithologist María del Coro Arizmendi.

There are 22 species of hummingbird in the sprawling Mexican capital, Arizmendi said, of which the broad-billed hummingbird and the brillin hummingbird are the most common. In Mexico, there are about 57 species and about 350 across the Americas.

With dozens of baby birds circling over the walls and window of her bedroom, Lattouf explains that she began caring for them a year after surviving colon cancer in 2011. It started with a hummingbird being shot in the eye by another bird.

A vet friend encouraged her to try to help her. She named it Gucci after the brand of eyeglass case she kept it in. The bird became her inseparable companion, sitting at the computer screen while she worked.

Of the nine months the bird lived with her, she said, “A new life has been written for me.”

This helped bring Lattouf out of her grief and loneliness, which she experienced after the death of her husband in 2009, followed by her bout with cancer. Her illness prompted her to sell her five high-end stores to focus on her recovery.

Later, friends and acquaintances began to bring her more hummingbirds. I began to study how to best care for birds native to the Americas which usually weigh only 4 to 6 grams (five ounces or less) and are about 10 to 12 centimeters (4 to 5 inches) in length.

“Most of them come to me as children. Many come to me broken,” she said.

Some suffer wing injuries after hitting objects or falling from nests. Some develop infections from drinking contaminated water from hummingbird feeders, which are popular in the city.

Since May, the demand for its services has jumped. Someone put a video of her work on the social platform TikTok which has been viewed over 1.5 million times.

Latouf says she never rejects a bird. Together with her collaborator Cecilia Santos, whom she calls a “hummingbird nanny,” they take care of the birds on the long days that run from five in the morning until night.

Most hummingbirds are in the bedroom where Loofah sleeps. They stay there until they are strong enough to fly and feed themselves. Then she takes them to an adjoining room to prepare them for their eventual release. They were released in a wooded area on the south side of the city.

Many of them managed to return to the wild, but those who died under the care of Lotof are buried near her building among young plants.

The city is full of threats to hummingbirds. There are the elegant black fringes attacking birds and destroying their nests, as well as the ongoing construction projects that are replacing flower gardens with concrete.

But Lotuf remains optimistic and is betting on other bird lovers who plant more flowers to feed the big pollinators.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” she said. “I believe that God gives life and God takes it away, but we do everything possible.”

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