Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman

Hawaiian goose / Nēnē

Branta sandvicensis

Hawaiigans / Hawaiigans / Bernache des îles Sandwich

 

The Hawaiian state bird, the Nēnē, the only surviving Hawaiian goose, is still endangered by predators. In 1950, only 30 were left in wild on the Hawaiian Islands! But thanks to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust in the UK they are making a comeback from the edge of extinction.

The overall population of this species has increased from a low of perhaps just 30 birds in the mid-1900s to over 2,000 individuals in 2011. The majority of the population outside Kaua'i does not breed successfully in the wild, so the effective population size is very small and consequently the species is listed as Vulnerable (IUCN, 2008).

 

Hawaiian geese have lost a great deal of webbing in its feet, and is perfectly at home away from water. It provides better usage in their environment, such as walking more easily on lava slopes. They are herbivorous (like all geese), eating grass, seeds, leaves and fruits.


Nēnē are quite unlike any other species in the genus Branta. It has evolved to adapt to the volcanic areas that contain little water, therefore, the feet are only partially webbed. The sexes are similar, both having yellowish-buff cheeks, black face and head, deep, dark neck furrows and a overall grayish-brown body. The bill, feet and legs are dark gray to black.

 

This species adapts and breeds very well in confinement. The clutch size is rather small, only between 2 to 5 eggs are laid early in the year. Incubation is done by the hen for 30 days. The goslings are cared for by both parents and grow slower than most other species of geese, not fledging until they are about 3 months old.

 

Immature Nēnē resemble the adults, but are duller and have a grayer neck. They may not breed until they are two years old. Pairs maybe somewhat aggressive towards other species during the breeding season, and may need to be housed apart from other species.

 

Nēnē do great in captivity and since they are more of an upland bird, do not need a large source of water. Despite being native to Hawaii, Nēnē are hardy and can withstand the cold temperatures during the Winter.

 

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Above: close-up of Hawaiian geese

 

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Above: A gosling of several weeks old

 

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Above: A pair of Nēnē with their goslings

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