A New Day for the Nēnē

Once lost, now found: the Hawaiian goose is rediscovered on Oahu.

After being absent for nearly 300 years, Hawaii’s state bird the nēnē goose has finally come home to roost in Oahu.

The Associated Press was the first to break the news of this development. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a family of nēnē geese has taken up residence at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. The parents arrived on their own, before settling in and hatching three chicks. Fish and Wildlife says that human intervention was not a factor in bringing the endemic birds back to the island.

The nēnē goose was once omnipresent in Hawaii; scientists estimate that the population numbered 25,000 in 1778. But as the islands became colonized, the geese began to disappear. Currently, only 2,000 nēnēs remain in the wild. The birds can be found in small numbers on Kauai, Maui, and Molokai, though they’ve had the most success at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where they were reintroduced in the ‘70s. That effort presented a variety of challenges. There were mass casualties of geese and goslings due to feral cats, mongoose, cars, and even stray golf balls.

The James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge is a suitable site for the nēnē goose to get reestablished. The refuge is a hotbed for bird conservation, and plays host to four endemic water birds: Hawaiian stilt, Hawaiian duck, Hawaiian moorehen, and Hawaiian coot. The question now is: how much protection will this nēnē family need? Though the geese were able to get to Oahu without any help, it will be difficult for them to withstand the rigors of living on Hawaii’s most populated island. Human intervention may be necessary at this stage of the journey. 


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