Birds of Hulē‘ia
Hawaiian Goose / Branta sandvicensis / Nēnē
Fossil records show that the nēnē was present on all the main Hawaiian Islands in abundant numbers but declined or disappeared due to habitat alteration and predation and introduced animals. It is believed that they were abundant (about 25,000 birds) on the Big Island before the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778. Scientists believe that the Maui population became extinct before 1890. The decline in numbers was accelerated during the period of 1850 to 1900 due to aggressive hunting of the birds and collecting of their eggs. In 1950, the nēnē population was estimated at only 30 birds. A small population was reintroduced at Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge in the early 1990’s. Approximately 1800 nēnē exist in the wild today. The Hawaiian goose is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Their continued decline was attributed to the introduction of alien plants and animals. The nēnē is extremely vulnerable to predation by introduced animals like rats, dogs, cats, mongooses, and pigs. In more recent studies, research shows that continuing decline of the nēnē population in the wild can be attributed to low productivity, perhaps caused by the poor available nutrition in their habitat.
Nēnē frequent scrubland, grassland, golf courses, sparsely vegetated slopes and on Kaua‘i, in open lowland country.
The nēnē's vegetarian diet consists of seeds of grasses and herbs as well as leaves, buds, flowers and fruits of various plants such as naupaka kahakai (Scaevola sericea).
Nēnē have a very asynchronous nesting season lasting from August through February. Their nests are down-lined and usually well concealed under bushes. Nēnē prefer nesting in the same nest area, usually under native vegetation. Two to five white eggs are usually laid and the incubation period is 30 days. Nēnē goslings are flightless for about 11 to 14 weeks after hatching. Family groups remain together until the next breeding season.