May 29, 2022
by Eric Anderson
The i’iwi, I’m afraid, can be something of a bully.
Most of the time things are OK. They’ll even join a flock of ‘apapane to find good trees for nectar sipping. But… there are times when it all goes very badly. An i’iwi that finds an ohi’a tree in full blossom first is pretty likely to chase other birds away. ‘Apapane and ‘amakihi in particular aren’t welcome when there’s a tree full of flowers. When an i’iwi starts swooping at them, most of the time they leave.
There was one i’iwi in the ohi’a forest, though, who was a thoroughgoing bully. He would chase ‘apapane away from a tree with just a few flower clusters. He would dive at ‘amakihi as they passed by a tree he was sitting in. If there were more flowers, he’d just get more aggressive. Some ‘apapane had to dodge strikes with his long curved beak. Some ‘amakihi swerved away from his extended claws.
A group of ‘apapane were perched in a not-very-flowery ohi’a tree rather glumly. They weren’t exactly hungry, but they certainly weren’t well fed. They’d had to fly further to find ohi’a in blossom, and sometimes he’d come after them and chase them away from those trees, too. It was a bad situation.
“I wish there was something we could do about it,” said one of the ‘apapane.
“You know, I think there might be,” said an ‘amakihi at the edge of the group.
The birds, ‘apapane and ‘amakihi alike, and maybe an ‘akepa or two, listened in astonishment as she shared her idea.
“I don’t think that will work,” said a skeptical ‘apapane.
“If it doesn’t, we’re no worse off than we were,” said the ‘amakihi, and they all had to agree.
The next day, a few ‘amakihi joined the one whose idea it had been and flew by the tree the bully i’iwi was perched in. It was a tree just dripping with blossoms and nectar, so of course he took off after them to chase them off. What he didn’t notice was that as he flew after them, a larger group of ‘apapane and ‘amakihi and ‘akepa descended on the tree he had left and began to feed. When he returned, he found the tree full of birds. With more anger and confidence than good sense, the bully set in to chase them away, but found they weren’t very chase-able when they already had a purchase in the tree – and when there were quite a good number of them. The decoy ‘amakihi flew in behind and so they, too, were in the tree, as the i’iwi fluttered about, getting wings and beaks batted at him by three or four birds at a time, until he finally flew off in disgust.
“I didn’t think it would work,” repeated the skeptical ‘apapane.
“My tutu told me you can always do something,” said the ‘amakihi who’d led the flock. “Sometimes the something even works.”
You can always do something.
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Photo by ALAN SCHMIERER from southeast AZ, USA – HAWAI’I AMAKIHI (8-30-2017) Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaii Co, hawaii-03 male, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74675379.