Story: Dive or Skim

October 23, 2022

Psalm 84:1-7
Luke 18:9-14

It’s a funny thing. The koa’e kea – the white-tailed tropicbird – and the noio – the black noddy – eat basically the same foods. They like small fish, they like squid. But they catch their food in very different ways. One koa’e kea had noticed this.

“That,” he said to another koa’e kea, “is disgusting.”

“What is?” she asked. The two were flying out to their fishing grounds from the ledges of Kilauea.

“Them,” said the first, “those noio. Watch them crowd together. Why can’t they hunt alone? There’s a horde of them fishing there. Then the noise. Every last one of them is screeching and calling. They’re flying low, and any bird should know that you can’t spot fish if you’re not high over the water. And most of all“ – he shuddered even as he was flying – “they don’t even know how to do a proper dive.”

“Really?” asked his friend. “What do they do?”

“Watch,” said the first, and they watched as noio after noio skimmed low over the water. The surface of the ocean rippled with the movement of the small fish beneath it. The noio dipped their beaks into the water, seized a fish without landing, and flew on as they swallowed.

“They don’t even pause on the surface to properly appreciate their meal,” he moaned.

“Aren’t there big fish down there, too?” asked his friend, who had noticed larger forms deeper in the water.

“Ahu,” said the koa’e kea, “skipjack tuna. They’re chasing the same fish as the noio. I don’t know why they’re not all crashing into one another, and why none of those noio have become lunch for an ahu.”

They watched the chaotic scene for a while, and then the second koa’e kea said, “You know, it seems to work.”

“What?” he said.

“With those ahu around, the small fish are closer to the surface,” she said, “and with so many birds in the air you wouldn’t want to pause on the surface. From all I can tell from here, none of them look like they’ll go hungry.”

“Do you want to fish like a noio?” he demanded.

“No, I’d rather dive from a good height,” she said, “and I’d rather not have a lot of other birds about because I’d crash into one when I’m diving. I’m not eager to run into an ahu under water, and one of my dives might get down to where they are. I can’t call the noio disgusting, though,” she continued. “They’re living, and thriving, and happy, and fed. That’s a pretty good life for a seabird, don’t you think?”

I don’t know for certain whether she’d convinced him, because he didn’t say anything more as they flew out to their own fishing grounds farther from shore. I’ll call her wise, though, to recognize that there’s more than one way to live a good life as a seabird, and to appreciate a seabird who does things differently.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story is told from memory of this manuscript. That is enough to cause some differences. Today, there was another presentation before the story, and, well, you’ll just have to see it to believe it.

Photo of a noio in flight (though not actually skimming the surface) by Eric Anderson.

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