Endangered nene geese return to Oahu, hatch 3 chicks
Nene are Hawaii’s state bird, but they haven’t been reported on the populous island of Oahu in centuries. That finally changed this week when officials revealed two nene are raising a family there.
Two adult nene geese and their three goslings swim at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu, Hawaii, where the endangered species hadn’t previously nested since at least the 1700s. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr)
The last few centuries haven’t been kind to birds in Hawaii. At least 71 of the islands’ 113 native bird species have become extinct since the 1700s, and 32 of the remaining 42 are federally listed as threatened or endangered. Ten of those haven’t been seen in the wild for decades.
Flying in the face of this trend, however, the endangered nene goose — Hawaii’s state bird — is not only staging a comeback, but seems to be recolonizing the state’s most populous island, a place it hasn’t been seen for centuries. Wildlife officials announced this week that a nene couple has nested and hatched three goslings on Oahu, the first Hawaiian geese to do so since at least the 1700s.
The pair was first spotted near Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore in January, the Associated Press reports, and later moved a few miles away to the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. That’s where they made a nest, hatched three eggs and are now bravely raising their family.
Oahu is home to Honolulu and nearly 1 million humans, making it a rough place to raise endangered offspring, but the geese couldn’t have picked a much better part of the island to nest, the AP points out. The 1,100-acre refuge offers food, a buffer from people, fences to keep out dogs and pigs, and traps to catch smaller predators like mongoose. It also has wetlands and ponds that can protect nene from cats or other invasive predators that get past the refuge’s defenses.
Nene have a long history in Hawaii, evolving from Canada geese that flew there hundreds of thousands of years ago. They’re the only survivors of at least nine original Hawaiian goose species, saved by their flying skills while eight flightless species were killed off by Polynesian settlers.
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