Hawaiian Goose

Nēnē / Branta sandvicensis
Nene in the mist


  • Found year-round
  • This regal goose is Hawai‘i’s state bird and the world’s rarest goose.
  • The nēnē has a black head and bill, buff cheeks, a buff neck with white diagonal lines, and partially webbed black feet. The reduction of webbing between their toes and upright posture enables them to walk more easily on the rugged lava flows.
  • Its vocalizations are similar to those of the Canada goose but also gives a low murmuring "moo" or "nay-nay" call, hence their Hawaiian name.
  • It is believed that the nēnē evolved from the Canada goose (Branta canadensis), which is thought to have arrived on the Hawaiian islands about 500,000 years ago, shortly after the island of Hawaiʻi was formed. 
  • Nēnē currently frequents scrubland, grassland, golf courses, sparsely vegetated slopes and on Kaua‘i, in open lowland country. 
  • Nēnē are monogamous and mate for life. Unlike most waterfowl, the nene mates on land. The nēnē enter the breeding season which lasts from August to April and 2 -5 eggs are laid between November and January. The incubation period is 29-32 days. Goslings take 70-84 days to fledge from their parents. 
  • Nēnē do not require standing or flowing water for successful breeding but will use it when available. The breeding season is from October to February. Their nests are down-lined and usually well concealed under bushes. Nēnē prefer nesting in the same nest area year after year. Two to five white eggs are usually laid and the incubation period is 30 days. The goslings are flightless for about 11 to 14 weeks after hatching. Family groups begin flocking soon after the young are able to fly and stay together until the next breeding season.
  • Many public and private organizations have been actively operating and supporting propagation programs to reestablish nēnē in the wild. The State of Hawai‘i reintroduced them to Kīlauea Point and Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuges. Nēnē have also been introduced successfully on Moloka‘i under a Safe Harbor Agreement between Pu‘u O Hoku Ranch, DOFAW, and the Fish & Wildlife Service.


Facts About Hawaiian Goose

Vegetarian diet consists of seeds of grasses and herbs as well as leaves, buds, flowers and fruits of various plants.

Life Span
20 years

Length: 56-66 cm (22-26 in); wingspan: 109-119 cm (43-47 in)

The nēnē is considered the world's rarest goose. It is highly endangered and is protected by law from hunting.