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Hawaiian goose

The Hawaiian goose (Branta sandvicensis), the Hawaiian state bird, is considered to be the world’s rarest goose [3]. The Hawaiian goose or “Nene” was once found on most of the larger Hawaiian islands including Kauai, Molokai, Maui, and the Big Island and my have numbered in the 20,000s prior to European settlement [1,3]. As settlers moved onto the islands in the late 1770’s, the Nene immediately began declining. The birds were hunted relentlessly and the introduction of the mongoose in 1883, which preyed on adults, chicks and eggs, seemed to seal the NeNe’s fate [1]. By 1918 only an estimated 30 individuals Nenes remained in Hawaii [2].

Beginning in the 1950’s captive breeding programs were initiated in Hawaii and England [2]. These programs eventually released more than 2,300 Nenes [2]. In 1967, due to the tenuous state of the remaining population, the Nene was listed as endangered under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act [4].

Today, the Hawaiian goose occurs in the wild on the islands of Hawaii, Maui (reintroduced), and Kauai (reintroduced) [5]. Mainly, the Nenes inhabit shrub and grasslands and breed and nest on the slopes of volcanoes and some lowland areas [5]. In order to facilitate repopulation of the Nenes, the Hawaiian National Park system provides supplemental feeding during periodic food shortages [2]. As a result of captive breeding, successful re-introductions and recovery efforts the wild population has increased to over 1,000 birds [2].

[1] The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Hawaiian Goose General Information. Website <http://www.wwt.org.uk/threatsp/pastwwt/nene.htm> accessed 1/10/06.
[2] Audubon. 2002. Hawaiian Goose. Website <http://audubon2.org/webapp/watchlist/viewSpecies.jsp?id=100> accessed 1/10/06.
[3] NetState. Hawaii State Bird. Website <http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/birds/hi_nene.htm> accessed 1/10/06.
[4] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hawaiian Goose (Branta sandvicensis) Species Account. Website <http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/life_histories/B00C.html> accessed 1/15/06.
[5] Honolulu Zoo. Hawaiian Goose (Nene). Website <http://www.honoluluzoo.org/nene_goose.htm; back from brink> accessed January, 2006.

Banner photo © Phillip Colla