Monday, January 6, 2014

Waikiki Tree Penguin.

A week ago I was on a bus tour of Oahu.  It started in Waikiki, then went to Pearl Harbor, then hurtled up island to the north coast and pretty much hugged the shore the rest of the way around. Ooh, what a beautiful place, especially compared to most of North America right now.

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."


rebecca said...

What. Just... WHAT. Oh my goodness.

Tim said...

Real life interpreter stories so silly that you couldn't make this stuff up. Happy new year, Hugh!

Hugh Griffith said...

Happy New Year Tim! And Happy New Year Rebecca!

biobabbler said...

A "chorus"?!? A penguin? With long, thin, yellow legs & in HAWAII?!?


Did I ever mention the time I got called on the radio (NPS days) & was told there were ferrets down in the tide pool area? I freaked, thinking 'NO!" imagining myriad death to native wildlife from this super speedy, lithesome creature that could enter ANY subterranean lair of all our native mice, etc.

What I found was 3 HUGE, white, fat lab rats (w/subcutaneous tumors) lumbering about. Clearly "liberated." Chucked 'em in a box & gave them to the appropriate authorities. Flabbergasted.

(p.s. those shrimp stands house some of the best food I've had IN MY LIFE.)

Hugh Griffith said...

bb: Tidepool rats. Why oh why?

Those shrimp stands/trucks are amazing. I want to go back and spend some time figuring out which is my favourite.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

I love this story!

From Bluebirds to Turtles said...

Hugh! I've been delinquent in keeping up with my favorite blogs. Our public cancer cytology lab is being phased out due to price undercutting by a big commercial lab and I have had my mind on the "decommissioning" that is set to occur in June. But I loved this Wakiki Tree Penguin! As a high school student, I took a by mail taxidermy course. I was not a hunter and received just a few animals from high school acquaintances for practice. Never got very good at this. One specimen brought to me was a black-crowned night heron. The kid told me his uncle shot it mistaking it for a CROW! To make matters worse, the bird had not died from the gunshot, so the uncle had WRUNG IT'S NECK! It was a beautiful bird with a mangled neck and amazing red eyes. I had to bury it (also I'm sure it was illegal to have it in my possession).
Hope you are well and I'm glad to see you posting more. I'll catch up tonight. I found a pair of Black Racers last week and posted them over the weekend.
Take care,

Hugh Griffith said...

Hi aubrey, It's great to hear from you. The "decommissioning" sounds wrong and is wrong. Privatizing cancer care?

Yes, black-crowned night-herons are miraculaous birds. Sorry your first exposure to them was somewhat gruesome. It's weird in Hawaii - they're pretty common everywhere. But I must go back to make sure, and as often as possible.

I wish the best for you employment-wise, and shall keep an eye on your blog as the spring unfolds into summer.

Best wishes,