SciSun: Loose Goose   Leave a comment

In the Pacific Ocean, more than 2,400 miles from North America, is Hawaii – a series of large and small islands that are isolated from all other continents and land masses. No one knows when the fist humans found the islands, but the native people believe their culture goes back thousands of years. As there was virtually no outside contact, over time specialized plant and animal species developed in this sheltered environment until even the most common plant, bird, and insect became unique and found only among the islands. In 1778 the first Europeans arrived (they ‘discovered’ the islands. Although people had been living there for centuries), and from then until now, due to a combination of different lifestyles; introduction of non-native and invasive species; exposure to disease, predators, destructive pests, and a general ‘lets take this paradise and make it better! attitude’, things in Hawaii have never quite been the same. Hooray for civilization!


But now, for the first time since the 1700’s, a family of the endangered HawaiianGoose (Branda sandvicensis) has been seen on Oahu, the most populated – although not the geographically largest – of the islands. Once flourishing, estimated at over 25,000 individuals, by 1900 the only remaining populations were on the ‘big island’ of Hawaii, the largest and in some areas still the least developed. By the 1950’s only 30 birds remained, and it was feared the species could become extinct; thankfully the few survivors were tough, adapting to living in captivity, and through reintroduction to some of the more remote and wild areas by 2010 over 2000 were successfully living on three islands.


So it wasn’t a shock – but still quite the surprise – when a family of five Nēnē(as they are named in native Hawaiian language) arrived in the most heavily developed and congested of the islands – and the fact the parents had to fly almost 100 miles, largely over the ocean, to reach this urban outpost where they face automobile traffic, dogs, cats and mongoose (an introduced species which apparently now are rather common), and the stress of being celebrities. But these aren’t dumb geese, and after a few days hanging around a popular beach the pair moved a few miles to the Campbell National Wildlife Refuge where they made a nest and three little goslings were born. The Refuge has most everything a goose would want, and is protected from all but the most cunning and persistent predators (and the paparazzi. But those two are more or less the same), so things are looking up not only for this family, but also for the Hawaiian Goose in general as recently another pair was sighted along Oahu’s south coast. However, that pair didn’t stay but were just checking things out for a possible future retreat.


“Sure, the weather's great, but I should have never let that travel agent talk me into the volcano hike.”

“Sure, the weather’s great, but I should have never let that travel agent talk me into the volcano hike.”


These unique geese, long-ago related to the Canada Goose, is the Hawaii state bird; and if that wasn’t enough responsibility, they are the last remaining native goose species on the Islands, the only survivors from what at one time were nine or more distinct types. Also, a successful return and strong population of Nēnē is a symbol and remembrance of the over 70 of the islands’ native bird species that have become extinct since the arrival of the first Europeans, and the 32 avian species that are today listed as threatened or endangered.


Because many birds return as adults to the place they were born (you CAN go home again!), it’s hoped the little goslings will one day come back and raise families of their own. And bring their friends. As any tourist knows, everyone who visits Hawaii sooner or later has to go to Oahu.


Michonne Says: Oh I see geeses all the time. I don’t know if any of them are from an island. Whatever that is. Most geeses are usually in bad moods and make hissing sounds and try to bite. Maybe they’d be happier if they took a vacation.



Posted April 6, 2014 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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