The Breakfast Crowd

Remember my mentions of the great numbers of songbirds everywhere we went in the islands of Hawaii?  Well, things were not always so happy.  Centuries ago, the native bird population of the islands enjoyed a life free of predators, so they developed the habit of building their nests on the ground.  All was well until rats were introduced via maritime traffic from Europe, and these rats found the easiest prey in the ground nesting birds.  At some point it occurred to someone to think that introducing mongoose to the Hawaiian islands would solve the problem of rats.  Guess what?  Mongoose hunted by day, rats hunted by night, and the bird population was decimated, most species being preyed upon to extinction.  Well, nowadays both mongoose and rat have been virtually exterminated, and non indigenous birds (including a very large, healthy population of hens and roosters in the island of Kawaii) have made a comeback. 

 

And what a comeback!  We could hear birds singing as we walked down the streets.  I enjoyed their singing as I sat in the balconies of the different hotel rooms David and I slept in.  The little feathered ones were even present at the outdoor areas of these hotels, and this, of course, included the eating areas.  I felt greeted by songs as David and I got a table at breakfast time.  We feasted on the luscious papaya, delicious pineapple and canteloupe, as well as on delicious and freshly made omelettes and sausages.  But we were not the only ones who enjoyed breakfast.  David was delighted to discover that the birds who serenaded us were not shy about getting a little close, some coming right up to the table( that is, landing on the table),  to see if we would be generous with them.  David had so much pleasure offering breakfast to the little birds, and I loved his descriptions of how some birds were faster than others in taking the food.  I do not think I need to tell you here that David and I became the birds’ favorite humans wherever we sat at an outdoor eating area at the hotels.  I could swear that in the morning the birds were waiting for us, ready to come to our table and keep us company as we all shared delicious food to start the day. 

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The Crouching Lion and the Birds in Paradise

 There is an eating place in Awahu called The Crouching Lion.  I would not call it a restaurant, for it is not exactly what we think of when we hear the word.  The Crouching Lion is made of wood, built in a humble way, furnished just as humbly.  What it offers is good food, the warmth of its staff and proximity to the ocean.  So, when the tour group got there, I got to enjoy a tasty lunch, the sounds of the sea, and something more. 

 

When I finished my lunch, David said to me: “Come with me, there is something I want you to see.” 

We walked to the back of the place, which was clean and ample, until, to my surprise, we ended up in a courtyard.  And inside this courtyard were all these cages, big, big cages, housing quite a variety of parrots, lorries, parakeets, cocatoos, feathered in all the colors of the rainbow.  I was delighted by this surprise, as I was surrounded by all kinds of squawks, chirps, calls and songs.  David and I went around to look at each cage, and he described for me the birds that were in them.  In one cage there were two or three large parrots that were mostly red, with yellow and blue accents.  Another cage housed a good number of smaller lorries or parakeets that were either mostly blue, or yellow, or green.  There was a female sitting in her nest.  The sounds and display of colors was quite joyous, bright and lively.  When I thought we were finished enjoying the birds, David said: “There is still one more.”  We walked away from the courtyard until David brought me to the one he wanted me to see.

 

I found myself standing in the presence of this awesome macaw, who was very busy cracking peanut shells in order to get to the delicious food inside.  The macaw’s tail was long and red, his body blue, and his face speckled with black and white feathers.  The macaw was comfortably perched, but he was not inside a cage.  We stood for a moment watching and listening to him crack the shells and eat thepeanuts.  Then David felt tempted to pull on the bird’s very long, thin tail.  “I do not think so.” I said, thinking of the macaw’s formidable black beak.  Well, there had been no need for me to say anything after all.  As David slowly reached for the bird’s tail, the feathered one half turned and gave him a warning look.  Once the message was sent (and unequivocally received), the bird turned back to his peanuts.

 

I started to say hello to the bird, repeating the word a few times in a soft voice.  To our surprise and pleasure, the great macaw stopped eating, turned to face us and tried to repeat the word hello.  I said the word, and he tried again to repeat it.  It was obvious that someone was teaching him and he was a beginning student.  David said hello to the bird.  He looked at him for a secondas if to say: “What, you got some food for me or something?”  Then,having found David to be an uninteresting subject, he   turned his back to focus again on the peanuts.  David and I had a good laugh. 

We stood there for a little longer, as I said hello to the bird a few more times and was rewarded by his reply.  Then one of the ladies who cooks the food in this simple and wonderous place came over and gave the macaw a French fry.  The bird gently took the offering from the woman’s fingers with his powerful beak, then lifted one foot to grasp the treat and eat it, the same way he had done with the peanuts. 

 

And so I said good bye to this humble wood palace, with its open spaces that let in the sun and the sounds and smells of the ocean, its magical courtyard populated by gorgeous birds, and its presiding great macaw.  May The Crouching Lion continue to give its foods for body and soul for many years to come.

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