This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Unusual.’ See more responses here.
Nēnē, the endemic Hawaiian geese, are long-distant relatives of Canada geese. They were listed as an endangered species, until the end of last year when their status was changed to ‘threatened.’
Because of the nēnē’s precarious numbers, it isn’t unusual to see “Slow, Nēnē Crossing” signs, particularly in areas where nēnē breed. Because their numbers are on the rebound on the Big Island, it’s also not unusual for me to see nēnē, on my daily walks or when I was working. But in my years on the island, I never saw a nēnē anywhere near one of the warning signs, until earlier this year, just before the lockdown. This sign and these two birds were in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where a fair number of the birds live and breed.
I had to stop and get a photo of this unusual event, fortunately without getting myself or the birds killed (it’s a busy, narrow road). The only disappointing thing about this encounter was that neither of the nēnē actually crossed the road. I guess I’ll have to wait another seven years to witness that.
I’ve lived on the Big Island for more than seven years now, and I’ve seen lots of nene in that time. But until recently, I’d never seen a nene gosling. Then, a few weeks ago, I was driving and saw a pair of nenes with a gosling alongside the road. Alas, I couldn’t stop and take a photo at that time. I went back to the area later, but didn’t see the family again.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was out on one of my regular walks around Upolu and I saw this family at the airport. The two parent birds were very attentive and the chick was just a little ball of fuzz.
When I see nene at Upolu, I call the information in to the East Hawai’i Division of Forestry and Wildlife. Forestry and Wildlife keep track of the birds and how they’re doing. Many birds are banded and, when I can, I record that information and pass it on. The bands can be seen in the photos, but not the details. However, I was able to get other pictures that showed the parent birds were 8A7 and 8A6. The color of the bands helps identify them and which leg the bands are on depends on the bird’s sex.
I saw this family again the next day, but not after that. It turned out that the Forestry and Wildlife people relocated the family because they felt that the airport was a dangerous place for the gosling, particularly as it grows and learns to fly.
Still, it was fun to see the little one when I did. It reminded me of the baby goats that I see around the island. Like them, it would busily follow its parents in foraging for food, then suddenly drop to the ground to rest, only to bounce up again soon after and peck away again.
When a quartet of nene showed up at work, a water bowl was put out for them. One of the nene, the leader of the group, stepped up to drink. One of the other birds looked on with interest, but was hesitant to join in (top photo).
The reason for that hesitancy became clear moments later when the first bird reached across and pecked the the other bird’s side. It didn’t appear to hurt, but a message was clearly being given. Soon after, the first bird finished drinking and then walked through the water bowl. It wasn’t like there was nowhere for it to go, but again, a message was being sent.
After the first bird moved on, the other bird took its opportunity to take a drink, muddy footprints and all.
This pair of nene (Hawaiian goose) were grazing when they noticed the mongoose (above). A mongoose isn’t a real threat to an adult nene, but it’s a real menace to a nene’s eggs and chicks. Though these birds weren’t nesting in this area and didn’t have chicks with them, Their protective instincts kicked in and one of the birds chased the mongoose away (second photo).
The mongoose scurried off into the tall grass, then reappeared on the edge and took stock of the scene (third photo). But when it ventured out (bottom), the nene’s attitude hadn’t mellowed and another charge ensued.
This scenario was repeated a few times before the mongoose lost interest and wandered off. Mongooses are very quick and will use this tactic of feints and retreats to wear out their intended victim. In this case, like the nene, it appeared to be more going through the motions in preparation for the next time it encounters a nene nest or chicks.
Three goats crossing a golf course fairway while a pair of nene head the other way. What I like about this image is that they all look very purposeful in their progress, as if they had an important appointment to keep. Only the saffron finch in the foreground looks like it couldn’t give a damn.
When it rains, large puddles form off to the side of the runway at Upolu Airport. These puddles are popular with a variety of birds, including these two nene, which were in fine voice.
The nene, or Hawaiian goose, is the official state bird and endemic to the islands. It’s also an endangered species and people are encouraged to report sightings to help track the birds. Here on the Big Island, nene sightings are reported to Hawaii’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife. The person I contacted there, Raymond B. McGuire, gave me this information about the birds:
“All of the nene that have the gray bands (like these) are part of a Governor’s Proclamation to move nene from Kaua’i (where they were nesting in a golf course near the airport) to the Big Island and Maui. In total, the Big Island received 598 nene in a 5-year period (2011-2016), this more than doubled the resident population prior to the project. The bands not only tell us where the nene came from, but also the sex. There should be two bands on the nene. One is metal with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service number (really tiny and hard to see) and the other is made of colored plastic and much easier to read the ID numbers (though the gray bands are not always easy to see on a gray legged bird). These gray-banded birds were banded by sex: males will have their plastic bands on the right and females will have the plastic bands on the left. These two particular nene, T86 and T87 were brought to the Big Island in 2014 and according to my records T86 is a male, and T87 is a female. They were brought as a breeding pair with 4 offspring. The translocated birds have been exploring the island more than the local birds have been. Although most of the introduced nene have been mixing with local nene and frequenting already established nene areas, we also now have nene frequenting areas that historically have not seen them or used to see them very infrequently, such as in Pahala, Punalu’u, Hawi (including Upolu), Waimea, and Kukuihaele!”
The Nene, or Hawaiian goose, is the official state bird and endemic to the islands. It’s also an endangered species, with numbers currently estimated at around 2,500. I was surprised, and lucky, to see a small group puttering about in the corner of a local cow pasture.