The Nēnē is an endangered bird descended from the Canadian Goose. The Nēnē is also the state bird of Hawai'i (since 1957).
By the mid 1950s Nēnē was scarce due to hunting, mongoose, dogs, and cats. In the late 50's concern mounted that the Nēnē would become extinct and efforts were undertaken to try to protect the species. The Nēnē are now making a comeback, thanks to their protected status and efforts to repopulate the species. Today the largest predator of the Nēnē are cars.
It is very easy to see Nēnē on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Though you can find Nēnē in many places on the island, the largest concentration of wild birds is in and around the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park in Volcano. Nēnē can often be found around the parking lot at the Jaggar Museum in the park. Another place to frequently see Nēnē is at the Volcano Golf and County Club. I have personally counted 12 Nēnē at one time, in a group, strolling about the golf course. Late afternoon to early evening is their more popular time.
NOTE: It is unlawful to touch, feed, harass, or chase the Nēnē. They are protected and each Nēnē is banded.
While related to the Canadian Goose, the Nēnē has evolved distinct differences. Like the Canadian Goose the Nēnē is capable of full flight. However, unlike the Canadian Goose, the Nēnē has a partial clawed and partial webbed foot. The fact that the Nēnē spends a lot of time on the hard lava rock meant that over time they evolved from fully webbed foots to a clawed foot for better gripping of the hard surface.
You will often see Nēnē in pairs - or if they are in groups the groups is very often even numbered. Nēnē mate for life and the male looks identical to the female. They are inquisitive birds and their protected status means they have lost some fear of humans. They will often stroll over to check out some activity they feel threatens their space. They can be loud, making an unmistakable honk as they fly or as they are socializing.
Nēnē eat grass, weedy plants and berries. The favorite berry of the Nēnē is the 'Ōhelo berry plant and signs in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park ask you to leave berries on the plants for the Nēnē to eat.
Nēnē are ground nesting birds and will create a nest of grass and feathers. They can breed throughout the year except for the months of May, June and July. The eggs resemble chicken eggs and are white though slightly smaller. The picture of the egg on the right was take in June. It was evident that the area had been a nest but the nesting material was no longer present. Since this was found in a non-breeding month, missing most of the nesting material, this was probably an abandoned or bad egg.