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Nēnē Geese (Hawaiian Geese)

By: Steve Frailey Wednesday February 6, 2019 comments Tags: hawaiian wildlife, animals on the organic noni farm


When visiting Hawaii, you may notice sounds from the nēnē (pronounced nay-nay). Nēnē, also called Hawaiian geese, descend from the Canadian Goose. In 1957, the Nēnē became the state bird of Hawaii.

Did you know? There was once a species of giant nēnē called nēnē-nui. The nēnē-nui was nearly four feet tall and weighed 20 pounds!

The nēnē is the only endemic (native) goose species in Hawaii. Sadly, the other eight species are extinct.

Did you know? Approximately 32 species of birds have gone extinct in Hawaii since 1778.

NOTE: It is unlawful to touch, feed, harass, or chase the Nēnē. Nēnē are protected and each Nēnē is banded.


Adult nēnē bodies are usually dark brown. The face, crown, eyes, beak, and feet are black, while the cheeks are cream-colored and the neck is buff with black streaks. Compared with other geese, Nēnē have longer legs and less toe webbing which helps them walk on Hawaii’s lava terrain.

Did you know? Hawaiian goose is monomorphic. This means that both males and females look the same. In other bird species, males have brilliantly colored plumage compared to females.

Food Habits

Nēnē are herbivores and forage solely on land. Nēnē don’t require much fresh water because they receive needed hydration from native grass and berries.

Some of the nēnē favorite foods include:

  • Violet crabgrass
  • Ōhelo berry plant
  • Broomsedge
  • Parramatta grass
  • Oʻahu sedge


Since nēnē wings are 16% smaller than their closest relative (Canada Goose), they are not migratory fliers. However, they do at times fly from island to island. Nēnē are diurnal (active during the day) and reside in family unit flocks of up to 30 or more birds. Dominance within the flock depend on the size of the family unit. Male nēnē defend the territory immediately surrounding nests and families. Nesting grounds range from 45 to 60 meters.

Did you know? Although nēnē are considered waterfowl, they rarely swim. Unlike other geese, nēnē don’t require open water to survive.


Nēnē have an extended breeding season from August through April. Eggs are usually laid between October and January. Clutches consist of 1 to 5 eggs. Hatched chicks are able to forage on their own almost immediately (precocial), and stop following parents within one year. After 2-3 years chicks are ready to breed.


  • Owls
  • Hawaiian hawks
  • Peregrine falcons
  • Rats
  • Wild pigs
  • Mongoose
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Depleting ecosystem

Did you know? The nēnē population was estimated at 25,000 before Captain Cook landed on Hawaii in the 1770’s.

Early Hawaiian settlers used nēnē as a food source, hunting the geese to near extinction. By 1907, a hunting ban was placed on the nēnē. However, by 1940 the nēnē was nearly extinct (only 30 remained) due to predators and degradation of habitat. The nēnē was declared endangered in 1967, and remain protected today.

Conservation Status

The nēnē is the world’s rarest goose. Peter Scott, a conservationist at nature reserve WWT Slimbridge in England in the 1950’s, successfully bred the nēnē from the brink of extinction and later introduced the nēnē back into Hawaiʻi. Despite difficulty breeding in the wild, the nēnē population has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years. The population is currently 3,000 geese.

Nēnē Geese in on our Organic Noni Farm

Along with the albatross, we are happy to announce that the nēnē have taken up residence on the farm. Enjoy the new pictures and hopefully we may have some new chicks on the farm!



Steve Frailey

About the Author: Steve Frailey

My wife and I (Steve Frailey) moved to Kauai, Hawaii in 1982 from our organic farm in California. There were no roads, electricity, water or buildings but lots of Noni trees (Morinda Citrifolia) in our valley. We also developed a deep relationship with Noni that was growing all through our valley.  Today we run our Hawaiian Organic Noni farm, and share the gift of health with people throughout the world.