Hummingbird Helper

11/01/2023
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    Catia Lattouf cares for hummingbirds in her apartment in Mexico City, Mexico. (AP/Fernando Llano)
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    Catia Lattouf evaluates a baby hummingbird that was rescued after falling from its nest. (AP/Fernando Llano)
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    Helper Cecilia Santos uses an eyedropper to feed a hummingbird in the home of Catia Lattouf. Lattouf calls Santos the “hummingbird nanny.” (AP/Fernando Llano)
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    Catia Lattouf, left, speaks with Marcelo Brito about a baby hummingbird he found in his garden. (AP/Fernando Llano)
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    A hummingbird hovers inside the home of Catia Lattouf. Most of the hummingbirds she cares for are housed in the bedroom where she sleeps. (AP/Fernando Llano)
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    A hummingbird drinks nectar from a feeder hanging from framed art protected by plastic. (AP/Fernando Llano)
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Catia Lattouf runs a clinic out of her apartment. Since opening her doors a decade ago, she’s nursed hundreds back to health. Her patients? Teeny-tiny hummingbirds.

Dozens of birds whirr overhead, skitter along walls, and flit at the window of Lattouf’s bedroom. “Hello, cute little guy,” she says to her newest arrival. Her makeshift clinic is located in a posh section of Mexico City.

A young man brings Lattouf an injured bird. Under her caress, the bird relaxes. Lattouf identifies it as a broad-billed hummingbird. She gently offers an eyedropper. “Are you very hungry?” she asks as the bird’s long beak jabs the end of the tube.

This hummingbird caregiver has a background in French literature and once owned several high-end boutiques. But after her husband’s passing and a bout with cancer, she was sad and lonely.

Along came a hummingbird with an eye injury. A veterinarian friend encouraged Lattouf to help the bird. She kept her tiny patient in a glasses case. She named it “Gucci” after the brand of the case.

Gucci became Lattouf’s devoted companion, perching on her computer as she worked. Gucci lived with her for nine months. “It wrote me a new life,” she says.

Soon Lattouf had turned her apartment into a clinic for sick, injured, or infant hummingbirds. Friends and acquaintances began bringing her hummingbirds. She studied how better to care for these species native to the Americas.

Even full grown, most hummingbirds usually weigh less than a fifth of an ounce and measure just four or five inches long.

“Most come to me as babies. Many come to me broken,” she says. Common injuries include collisions, falls, infections, and run-ins with predators.

Since 2012, Lattouf has become a resource for bird lovers across Mexico and other parts of Latin America.

Her home clinic also cooperates with academic institutions. They sometimes refer cases to her due to a lack of resources, time, and space, says one bird expert.

Lattouf never turns a hummingbird away. Over the summer, a video about her work appeared on social media. Now she and her assistant treat even more birds.

Most of Lattouf’s patients share her bedroom until they’re strong enough to fly and feed themselves. Then she moves them to another room and prepares them for release into a wooded area.

Not all survive. But Lattouf is thoughtful about their passing. “Nothing is guaranteed,” she says. “I believe God gives life and God takes it, but we do everything possible.”

Why? An accurate view of life as a gift from God should inform everything we do.

For more about hummers, see A Hummingbird in My House: The Story of Squeak by Arnette Heidcamp in our Recommended Reading.  

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