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Hawaiian Name: Nene
Hawaii’s State Bird
The rare ‘ohelo berry is one of the few truly native fruits of Hawaii, found only on the island of Hawaii and east Maui. Growing well near the Kilauea Crater on the island of Hawaii, the ‘Ohelo Berry was considered sacred to Pele. In the olden times, it was customary to offer some of the berries to Pele before eating any of them. Not only has Pele and the people of the islands found the ‘ohelo berry enticing, it is among the Nene’s favorite foods. The Nene is Hawaii’s state bird and an endangered species.
The Nene is considered the rarest goose in the world. They are thought to have descended from Canadian Geese that arrived on Hawaii before humans. Surviving on these isolated islands for many generations they gradually became a new species.
The Nene is a medium sized goose now found in the wild only on lava flows and high mountain slopes of Hawaii, Maui and in the wet lands of Kauai. They can grow as tall as twenty inches and weigh up to five pounds with the male being the larger. Their voice ranges from a loud “haw” or “haw-ah” to a muted call sounding like the “moo” of a cow. They also call a soft “nay-nay.”
At two to three years old Nene mate for life. They nest in the winter unlike other geese. The female scoops a shallow nest in the ground, pulling soft down breast feathers to tuck around the two to five cream colored eggs. She incubates the eggs for 28 to 30 days only leaving the nest for short spans of time to eat. The male Nene stands guard.
The adults are very protective of their young during the year they are together. Scientists think the goslings have as many as four different calls: “greeting” “pleasure” “sleepy” and “distress” signals. The goslings first fly at about eleven to fourteen weeks of age. The adults will molt in the summer and the family will fly together to new feeding grounds. The Nene’s diet consists of grasses, green leafy plants, seeds and berries.
© 1996 Victoria McCormick
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