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Nēnē Class of 2016 Takes Flight

It’s springtime and nēnē have begun to reappear in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, after being less visible since fall and winter, when they hunker down to nest, raise goslings and grow a new set of flight feathers (molt).

An adult pair of nēnē in pūkiawe bush near Crater Rim Drive in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Kathleen Misajon

An adult pair of nēnē in pūkiawe bush near Crater Rim Drive in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Kathleen Misajon

Nēnē have started to flock, and younger nēnē are taking their first flights. Drivers are reminded to slow down and watch out for the native geese on roadways in and out of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

Two young fledglings were killed last Saturday on Crater Rim Drive, between Kīlauea Overlook and Jaggar Museum, by an unknown motorist. The young birds, which were around six months old, were discovered by a park ranger.

“Young fledglings test out their wings and explore new territories this time of year,” said Wildlife Biologist Kathleen Misajon, Manager of the Nēnē Recovery Program at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. “The park uses nēnē crossing signs to alert motorists to key areas, however, until the young birds learn the ropes from their parents, the areas they choose to land can be unpredictable. It’s so important to be extra vigilant when driving so these kinds of accidents don’t happen,” Misajon said.

Nēnē, the largest native land animal in Hawai‘i, are present in the park and other locations on Hawai‘i Island year-round. They blend in with their surroundings and can be difficult for drivers to spot. They are federally listed as endangered.

Nēnē crossing signs posted throughout the park call attention to roadside areas frequented by nēnē. These include Crater Rim Drive, Chain of Craters Road, and sections of Highway 11. Motorists are urged to use extra caution in signed nēnē crossing areas, and to obey posted speed limits.

A young nēnē fledgling tests its wings in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Kathleen Misajon

A young nēnē fledgling tests its wings in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Kathleen Misajon

By 1952, only 30 birds remained statewide.  Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park began efforts to recover the species in the 1970s.  The Nēnē Recovery Program continues today, and more than 250 birds thrive in the park from sea level to around 8,000 feet. More than 2,500 nēnē exist statewide.

Wild nēnē, the world’s rarest goose, are only found in Hawai‘i and are the last survivor of several other endemic geese. Their strong feet sport padded toes and reduced webbing, an adaptation that allows them to traverse rough terrain like lava plains. Most nēnē fly between nighttime roosts and daytime feeding grounds. Watch this short Public Service Announcement for more information. To report nēnē on the road in the park, call 808-985-6170. Outside the park, call 808-974-4221.

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