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Branta sandvicensis / Hawaiian Goose

This regal goose is Hawai‘i’s state bird. The nēnē measures between 24 to 27 inches in length, has a black head and bill, buff cheeks, a buff neck with dark furrows, 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 "nay" or "nay-nay" call.

Nēnē currently 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. Nēnē do not require standing or flowing water for successful breeding but will use it when available. The current distribution of nēnē has been highly influenced by the location of release sites of captive-bred nēnē.


The breeding season is from August to April. Their nests are down-lined and usually well concealed under bushes. Nēnē prefer nesting in the same nest area year after year. Mean clutch size for wild birds is 3 eggs (range 1-6) and the incubation period is 30 days. Nēnē goslings are flightless for about 10 to 14 weeks after hatching. Family groups begin flocking soon after the young are able to fly and remain in their breeding areas for about a month. They wander about searching for food after that and may travel long distances from their breeding area.

Facts About Nēnē

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.
Page Photo Credits — Laura Beauregard/USFWS, © Dan Clark
Last Updated: Aug 28, 2013
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