A couple of bus-mates learned I was a birder, and asked a few puzzling questions.
"Do penguins have wings?"
"Uh, yes. They're sort of like flippers, but they're wings."
"Are there penguins in Hawaii?"
"Not unless they're in a zoo. We're still in the Northern Hemisphere. Penguins are exclusively Southern Hemisphere birds, except maybe the ones in the Galapagos Islands that straddle the equator."
"Do penguins sit in trees?"
"I doubt it."
"We saw a bird that looked like a penguin, in a tree at our hotel."
I can only imagine my expression.
"But then it spread its wings. They were real wings, not flippers."
I have little knowledge of the avifauna of Hawaii. I should have boned up, but I didn't. I was there for a wedding, and knew I wouldn't have time to go birding.
"It had head tassels. Some penguins have tassels, don't they?"
"They do," I said. "But they don't have typical bird wings, they're not supposed to be in Hawaii, and they don't perch in trees."
The conversation died. How could it not?
We stopped for a lunch at a shrimp shack somewhere along the northeast coast. Fumi's. Delicious. After washing up, I and several others walked around back to look at the shrimp/talapia ponds. Someone started talking about a penguin. He was pointing.
A chorus rose. "A penguin!"
Oh. Well there's the answer. I clicked a few pictures and took my camera back to the penguin people on my bus.
"Could be," one of them said. I led them to the pond. By the time we got there, people were very excited about the penguin, which was a very calm bird. It was obviously used to being mis-identified.
"That's probably what it was," said my bus-mates.
"It's a Black-crowned Night-Heron," I said. "Not a penguin."
From the Hawaii Audubon Society's bird guide: "The Hawaiian form has not differentiated greatly from its American counterpart."
"Aquaculture farmers consider the 'Auku'u a threat to their shrimp and small fish."