Story: The Ambitious ‘Amakihi

July 31, 2022

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23
Luke 12:13-21

To you and I, an ‘amakihi nest doesn’t look that big. It’s sort of an irregular ball shape – it doesn’t look exactly like an egg, but you might possibly think, “Oh. It does look a little bit like an ‘amakihi egg, only larger.”

It might be large, but it’s still not large for us. Most ‘amakihi nests are a little bit larger than a softball. Made of grasses and twigs, they’ve got a bit of a cup shaped top to hold the two or three eggs.

A mother-to-be was pretty anxious about getting her nest ready for the eggs that she’d be laying. Her husband, sad to say, didn’t help much. Or at all. That’s not uncommon among the ‘amakihi of this island. He would bring materials and he would stay nearby to encourage her, but she did the selection and the weaving of all the grasses and twigs and fern leaves. It was her first nest, and she was absolutely determined that there would be no problems for her eggs. It was going to be safe and warm and dry.

So she started with the basic structure, and it widened out as the nest grew higher. When she got near the top, she began to form the rim around the little bowl shape where the eggs would lay. That’s when she got… worried about things.

“What if the eggs roll out?” she asked her husband when the nest seemed finished.

He looked at it carefully and said, “I don’t think it would. It looks like the nest I was hatched in.”

“I think they’d roll out,” she said.

“Do you want to make the sides higher?” he said.

“I do,” she said, and she set about it. This in turn made the nest start to expand outward because the sides had to be supported underneath. And they kept going up.

“I think that looks good,” her husband ventured one day. “I don’t think they’ll roll out of that.”

“But what if the hatchlings fall out?” she asked. “They can climb, right?”

The husband wasn’t sure.

“Higher,” she said, and the nest kept getting bigger.

The day came when she had to stop building because she had eggs to lay and it was time. She looked at them proudly resting at the bottom of the cup in the nest. “There,” she said. “You’re safe and I’ll keep you warm.”

Her husband looked down at her. He seemed far away. “Um. How is this going to work?” he asked.

“How is what going to work?”

“How are we going to feed the chicks?”

Her nest had become an oversized softball with a narrow hole in the top that led down into it – quite a long way for a small bird like an ‘amakihi. It was actually so far that if he strained his neck down and she strained her neck up they couldn’t actually touch.

“How are you going to get out to eat?” he asked.

The sides were going to be an effort to climb. She’d struggled, in fact, to get to the bottom to lay her eggs.

“I think,” she said slowly, “that we’re going to have make some changes.” She looked at the eggs below her. “That is, can you make the changes?”

“Just tell me what to do,” he said.

“Let’s start by pulling away the top – at least until I can see out,” she said. And that’s what they did – until the nest that was built for ultimate safety was actually fit to use.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

In the recording above, the story is told from memory of this text. It is rather different.

Drawing of 2 ‘amakihi by Frederick William Frohawk – The Birds of the Sandwich Islands (1890-1899), Public Domain,

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