Animal of the Month
March 2022

Name: Nene

Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Anserinae
Genus: Branta
Species: B. sandvicensis

Size: 22-26 inches long.
Weight: N/A

Feathered, long neck, short bill, webbed feet, wings with long primary feathers, very short tail.
Color(s): Black head, white neck with black stripes. Patterns of grey and white all along the body, brighter on the breast, darker on the wings and back, black feet.
Preferred Habitat: Uplands, scrublands, lava flows and golf courses.
Range: The Big Island of Hawai'i, Kaua'i, Moloka'i and Maui.
Diet: Grass and herb seeds, leaves, flower buds and fruits.
Lifespan: N/A.

Status: Endangered

Hawai'i is home to many special treasures, like pristine beaches, radiant reefs, lush rainforests…and the world's rarest goose species! A cousin to Canadian geese, the Nene (pronounced nay-nay) is the official state bird of Hawai'i. These grey geese do not need standing water, though they will use it when possible. They can be found on the Big Island of Hawai'i as well as the islands of Kaua'i, Moloka'i and Mau'i.

Nenes live in coastal dunes, grasslands and lava plains. They also like open human-made places like golf courses and pastures. When in flight, the Nene makes sounds not unlike a Canadian goose, however on the ground it makes a low "nay-nay" sound, thus the Nene gets its name. The Nene is vegetarian and enjoys eating seeds, fruits, leaves and flower buds. They have partially webbed feet, which gives them better traction on rugged Hawaiian lava beds. They are curious creatures and have become accustomed to humans. If you are fortunate enough to see one, please give them their space and do not feed them!

Nenes live in pairs or groups that are often evenly numbered. Males and females mate for life and will breed in the same place each year. The Nene mating season lasts from August through April - the longest breeding season of all goose species! A Nene will build a nest in well-concealed bushes. They lay about 1-5 eggs, which hatch about 30 days after they are laid. After 10-18 days the young goslings are able to fly and the family group will start to move to new locations.
The Nene was once common on every Hawaiian island. Ever since western contact with Hawaii, these birds have suffered a combination of habitat destruction, competition and predation from introduced animals, human disturbance and catastrophic overhunting. They are frequently hunted by mongooses, which were introduced to the islands. In 1951 there were only 30 Nenes left alive! This has led the Nene to be labeled the rarest goose species on Earth. Fortunately, aggressive conservation programs have seen the Nene reintroduced to several locations in the Hawaiian Islands. As of 2010 there are between 2,000 and 2,800 Nenes. The state of Hawai'i continues to monitor and reintroduce these beautiful birds, giving them the hope of a bright future.

Want to give some aloha to the Nene and other endangered Hawaiian animals? Check out these awesome websites!

Kaua'i Nene Habitat Conservation Plan - A collaboration between federal and local entities to protect the Nene population on the island of Kaua'i

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Nene Page - Here is a bit more about the Nene and what is done in Volcanoes National Park to protect them!


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