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Friday, January 6, 2017

Species Fact Profile: Nene (Branta sandvicensis)

Nene (Hawaiian Goose)
Branta sandvicensis (Vigors, 1833)

Range: Hawaiian Islands
Habitat: Volcanic Slopes, Scrub Forest
Diet: Grasses, Fruits
Social Grouping: Pairs, Small Flocks
Reproduction: Monogamous for life, lay eggs August through April (longest nesting season of any wild goose).  Eggs are laid in hollows among vegetation on lava.  Usually 3 eggs, incubated for 30 days.  Independent at 1 year old, sexually mature at 2-3 years old.
Lifespan: 40 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Vulnerable, CITES Appendix I

  • Body length 63-69 centimeters, weight 1.8-2.3 kilograms 
  • Sexes look alike - the face, crown, and the back of the neck are black, the front of the neck is golden-buff, with black diagonal furrows, the body is gray-brown
  • Compared to other geese, they have relatively long legs (which allow them to run and climb over lava fields) and partially webbed toes.  The wings are considerably smaller than those of other geese, and as a result they are poor fliers (but can still travel from island to island).
  • Goslings are flightless until they are three months old, making them vulnerable to predators
  • The native name comes from the "nay-nay" call they make; the Latin name references the "Sandwich Islands", an old name for Hawaii
  • Species is believed to have been descended from the Canada goose
  • World's rarest goose species.  The population declined due to introduced species (predators and ungulate competitors), hunting, and habitat loss.  By 1949, the population was reduced to 20-30 birds
  • The species was saved through a captive-breeding and release program, full legal protection, and the removal of endangered species
  • Adopted as the State Bird of Hawaii in 1957, making it the rarest state bird

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