Nene -- 夏威夷黑雁 (Branta sandvicensis)

Nene portrait
Loading more images and videos...

Nene fact file

Nene description

GenusBranta (1)

The birds, or Hawaiian goose, was adopted as the official bird of Hawaii in 1957 (4). It is similar in appearance to the Canada goose although only the face, crown and back of the neck are black whereas the front of the neck is a golden-buff colour and the cheeks are tinged with ochre (5). Nene also have striking black diagonal furrows running the length of their neck and these contrast with the lighter-coloured plumage (2). Both sexes have identical plumage and, unusually amongst geese, the feet are only partially webbed (4) (6). Another unusual feature of the nene is the relatively long legs, which enable it to run and climb over very rugged terrain (such as lava fields) and to walk without the typical waddle of other geese (2).

Also known as
Hawaiian goose.
Barnacla Hawaiana, Barnacla Nené.
Length: 63 - 69 cm (2)

Nene biology

Nene have the longest nesting season of any wild goose species; eggs are laid in the winter months from August to April, although most eggs are laid during November-January (2). Females lay eggs in hollows in the ground amongst vegetation; these nests are often found in a 'kipuka' (an island of vegetation surrounded by barren lava) (8). Hens incubate their clutch (usually three eggs) for 30 days (9). Goslings remain flightless for three months, making them particularly vulnerable to predation (4).

Adults feed on grasses and fruits of native and introduced plants and give similar calls to Canada geese (4). Unlike other geese, birds do not require open water although they will swim if there is water near to their nest (8).


Nene range

Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, today the birds is most commonly found in and around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island and in Haleakala National Park on Maui. A large and growing population also occurs in lowland grass pastures on the island of Kauai (4), and nene have recently been reintroduced to the island of Molokai (7).


Nene habitat

Nene are adaptable and opportunistic in terms of habitat use; found historically on rocky, sparsely vegetated, high volcanic slopes but primarily nesting in lowland habitats (2). Preferred habitat today is pastureland adjacent to natural shrubland (5), although efforts are being made in the national parks to restore native plants species and communities that may have been important to birds before habitats were disturbed by introduced ungulates and other threats (7).


Nene status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Nene threats

As the human population on Hawaii expanded nene numbers began to fall, and recent evidence suggests that the population already numbered less than 300 individuals many centuries ago (7). Following excessive hunting and loss of habitat just 20 to 30 individuals remained in 1949 (6). Hunters targeted birds during the breeding season when they were particularly vulnerable. Today the main threat to this species comes from a lack of suitable habitat and from introduced animals such as mongooses, feral dogs and cats, which prey on eggs and young birds (4). Factors such as inbreeding depression and disease transmission may also pose difficulties for captive-reared birds (5).


Nene conservation

The birds has been rescued from the brink of extinction by a long-running conservation programme (6). Breeding programmes in both Hawaii and at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Britain have been working to breed captive birds for release into the wild (10). By 1997, 2,450 birds had been released (2) and by 1999 the total population was estimated at 960 to 1,000 birds (5). Nene are protected within national parks on both Hawaii and Maui, and within these areas predators are controlled to a limited degree (5). Although reintroduced populations are still not completely self-sustaining, the nene nevertheless represents a major conservation success story.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the nene see:



Authenticated (15/11/02) by Paul Banko, U.S.G.S. Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center.



A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Inbreeding depression
The reduction in viability, birth weight, and fertility that occurs in a population after one or more generations of inbreeding (interbreeding amongst close relatives).
Hoofed, grazing mammals.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
  2. Banko, P.C., Black, J.M. and Banko, W.E. (1999) Hawaiian Goose (Nene) (Branta sandvicensis). In: Poole, A. and Gill, F. (Eds) The Birds of North America, No. 434. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
  3. CITES (March, 2008)
  4. Aloha Hawaii (May, 2002)
  5. BirdLife International. (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  6. Smithsonian National Zoological Park (March, 2008)
  7. Paxinos, E.E., James, H.F., Olson, S.L., Ballou, J.D., Leonard, J.A. and Fleischer, R.C. (2002) Prehistoric decline of genetic diversity in the nene. Science, 296: 1827 - .
  8. WCMC Species Sheets (March, 2008)
  9. (March, 2008)
  10. Rave, E.H., Fleischer, R.C., Duvall, F. and Black, J.M. (1994) Genetic Analyses Through DNA Fingerprinting of Captive Populations of Hawaiian Geese. Conservation Biology, 8(3): 744 - 751.

Image credit

Nene portrait  
Nene portrait

© Lady Philippa Scott

Lady Philippa Scott


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Nene (Branta sandvicensis) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is affected by global climate change. To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top