Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Dorcas Annette Walker
The beginning of April signals when I hang out my hummingbird feeders. I have always been fascinated by these miniature birds that appear every spring. The birch trees that line our driveway is a favorite spot for hummingbird nests. Summer evenings I sit out on my front porch captivated by the colorful flying jewels buzzing around. My feeders become a busy airstrip as a dozen or more hummingbirds swoop and dive in to feed. A big highlight of our family one summer was rescuing a hummingbird after a storm, feeling the magic of tiny claws perch on our finger while feeding, until it became strong enough to survive outdoors. I’m always spellbound when a hummingbird hovers near my face enjoying one of creation’s wonders up close. So this week I made a Hummingbird Cake.
- are among the smallest of birds with 325 to 340 different species; their English name is derived from the characteristic hum made by rapidly beating wings; they have 1,000- 1,500 feathers; the average ruby-throated weighs only 3 grams; the smallest bee hummingbirds measures 2.25 inches long; their average lifespan is 3-5 years
- they cannot walk or hop, but scoot sideways while perching; have no sense of smell, but very keen eyesight seeing ultraviolet light, which helps them identify certain plants
- their feathers are actually black; the iridescent colors are caused by refraction of light level, moisture, and other factors
- they breathe an average of 250 breaths per minute, but their heart rate can reach as high as 1,260 beats per minute while in flight
- can fly backwards and upside down; hover in midair by flapping their wings 12-90 times per second; flight speed is 25-30 mph, although in a dive they can reach 60 mph; most U.S. hummingbirds migrate to Mexico or South America flying nonstop 500 miles across the gulf of Mexico each spring and fall
- drink nectar from flowers, but also feed on insects and spiders; are continuously hours away from starvation only able to store enough energy to survive overnight; may visit up to 1,000 flowers daily; feed in many small meals; they do not suck the nectar through their long bills, but lick it with fringed forked tongues
- due to high energy cost the majority of their time is spent sitting or perching and digesting
- their nest is half the size of a walnut shell or smaller; they use spider silk to bind the nest material together and secure its support allowing the nest to expand with the growing young; two white eggs are laid about the size of a navy bean; a female can care for more than one nest at a time
- although the smallest of the bird species proportionately by body weight, hummingbirds have the largest brain in the bird kingdom; are also one of most aggressive birds attacking jay, crow, and hawks that infringe on their territory
My Hummingbird Cake is a rich, moist, and filling dessert that will add elegance to any meal. Instead of three layers you can make this into a large sheet cake. Preparation for the Hummingbird Cake takes about fifteen minutes and this recipe serves sixteen.
3 c self-rising flour
1 c sugar
1 c br sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c cooking oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple
2 c mashed bananas
1 c chopped pecans
2 (16 oz) cans of cream cheese frosting
shredded coconut tinted or plain
In a large bowl mix together flour, sugars, and cinnamon. Add eggs, oil, vanilla, pineapple with juice, bananas, and pecans. Beat until all ingredients are well blended together. Divide the batter and pour into (3) 9-inch greased round cake pans. Bake at 350º for 35 minutes. Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting. Garnish with coconut and a sprinkling of chopped pecans!
Weekly tip: Homemade hummingbird nectar: 1 c sugar to 4 c water, boil, and then cool. You do not need to use red food dye to attract hummingbirds, instead plant or hang tubular flowers nearby. I’ve always had success with purple petunias!
Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at: www.dorcasannettewalker.webs.com