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The Nene: Hawaii State Bird

The official state bird of Hawaii
This article was written by EB React on 13/10/2023

Introduction to the Nene

Also learn about the history of the Hawaii flag
Discover other symbol, the Hawaii state flower
HAWAII flower

The Nene's unique status among state birds

The Nene, Hawaii's state bird, boasts a unique status among state birds across the United States. First and foremost, it's the only state bird that isn't a species native to the North American continent, having evolved in isolation on the Hawaiian Islands. This makes it a symbol of Hawaii's distinctiveness. 
Moreover, the Nene faced the brink of extinction, with only 30 birds remaining in the 1950s. Thanks to dedicated conservation efforts, that number has rebounded to around 2,800 today, a remarkable story of recovery. This resilience reflects the Nene's special place in Hawaiian culture and history, as it's considered an 'alae ke'oke'o' or sacred bird in Hawaiian mythology. 
Its distinctive appearance also sets it apart. With its black head, cream-colored neck, and subtle markings, the Nene is easily recognizable. Its low, melodious call adds to its uniqueness, making it an integral part of Hawaii's natural tapestry. 

Nene Appearance and Characteristics

How the Nene's appearance differs from other geese

The state bird of Hawaii, boasts unique characteristics that set it apart from other geese. First and foremost, their size distinguishes them, Nene are smaller, measuring about 24 to 27 inches in length, unlike their bulkier mainland counterparts. Their plumage is also distinctive, with a combination of white and dark feathers creating a striking contrast. 
Perhaps the most striking feature is the Nene's distinct facial pattern, including a black stripe running across their face, which sets them apart from the typical white-cheeked goose. Furthermore, their legs are longer and more slender, a feature that assists them in navigating Hawaii's varied terrains. 
Nene's honking call is distinct, too, being softer and more melodious than the typical raucous honking of other geese. This unique appearance and vocalization make the Nene a standout among geese, an essential part of Hawaii's natural heritage.

History and Cultural Significance State Bird of Hawaii

Nene in Hawaiian mythology and traditions

In Hawaiian mythology and traditions, the Nene, also known as the Hawaiian goose, holds a special place. According to legend, the Nene is believed to be the manifestation of a sacred ancestor, making it a symbol of protection and guidance in Hawaiian culture. 
The number "3" is particularly significant in Hawaiian mythology, and the Nene's three-toed footprint is thought to represent this powerful connection. It is said that seeing a Nene or its tracks can bring blessings and good fortune to those who encounter them. 
Moreover, the Nene is woven into Hawaiian traditions through its role in hula and chants. The graceful movements of hula dancers often mimic the Nene's gentle and deliberate walk, paying homage to this revered bird. 
With just around 3,000 Nene left in the wild, preserving their presence in Hawaiian mythology and traditions is crucial to ensure the cultural richness and environmental balance of the islands.

Interesting Facts about the Nene

The Nene's nesting and mating habits

This bird, Hawaii's state bird, has captivating nesting and mating habits. These graceful geese typically breed in the cooler months, with the nesting season peaking between November and February. They exhibit strong fidelity to their partners, often forming monogamous pairs that last for years. 
Nesting is a meticulous affair, and Nene birds select their nesting sites carefully. They prefer remote areas with minimal disturbance, like lava fields and volcanic slopes, where they construct their nests using grass, leaves, and twigs. These nests are often found in shallow depressions, where the female lays her eggs. 
Females typically lay 2-4 eggs per clutch, and both parents take turns incubating them for about a month. This shared responsibility helps ensure the survival of their offspring. 
The Nene's nesting and mating habits are a testament to their adaptability and commitment to sustaining their species, making them a truly remarkable bird of Hawaii.


EB React / Editor

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