Hawaiian Goose

The Hawaiian Goose or Nene (Branta sandvicensis) is a species of goose found only on the Hawaiian Islands. It shares a recent common ancestor with Branta canadensis, the Canada Goose. The official bird of the State of Hawaii, the Nene is exclusively found in the wild of the islands of Maui, Kauai and Hawaii. A larger and possibly flightless extinct species, the Nene-nui (Branta hylobadistes) was present in prehistoric times on Maui; related, but hitherto undescribed forms also occurred on Kauai and Oahu, and there was a gigantic, flightless relative on the island of Hawaii.

The Nene earned its Hawaiian name because of its soft call.

The species has a black head, buff cheeks and a heavily furrowed neck. The bill, legs and feet are black. Juveniles are a duller brown and have less demarcation between the colors of the head and neck, and striping and barring effects are much reduced. Females are similar except for their smaller size.

Its strong toes have much reduced webbing, an adaptation to the lava flows on which it breeds. It mates on land unlike most other wildfowl.

This is the world’s rarest goose. Although it was once very common, hunting and introduced predators such as mongooses, pigs, and cats reduced the population to 30 birds by 1952. Because this species breeds well in captivity, it has been successfully re-introduced so that by 2004 it is estimated that there were 500 birds in the wild (and good numbers in wildfowl collections).