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Endangered State Bird of Hawaii Returns to Historic Habitat March 28, 2014
Hawaiian goose, or nene.
Conservation efforts have allowed the number of nene to increase to near 2,000 in recent years.
One of the most endangered waterfowl in the world has been found living in the wild on the Hawaiian island of Oahu for the first time in centuries.

A pair of Hawaiian geese, or nene, is believed to have flown on its own from another island to nest on Oahu’s North Shore. It has since successfully hatched three healthy goslings.

The nene, the official state bird, is believed to have descended from Canada geese that arrived nearly 1 million years ago.

It was brought to near extinction by the middle of the 20th century by the expansion of agriculture by early Polynesian settlers and then through unrestricted hunting by European colonists.

Only 30 birds were left by 1952. But conservation efforts have lifted the population to about 2,000, mainly on the island of Kauai.

Some pairs have been airlifted for resettlement to the Big Island and Maui, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the pair found on Oahu was not part of that program.

“The fact that they would stop and raise youngsters over there — that's pretty remarkable,” said U.S. Geological Service wildlife biologist Steve Hess, who has studied nene but is not involved with the Oahu geese.

Photo: Brenda Zaun, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service