When Captain James Cook arrived in Hawaii in 1778 the locals did not exactly welcome him with open arms, although they were prepared to swap their sea otter pelts for worthless trinkets. Being something of an expert with a musket and a ball, the explorer had fun taking potshots at the local geese called nēnēs because that’s what their soft calls sounded like.
When Cook and his merry men returned the following year things did not go half as well, because the locals threw stones at them and stole their boat. Once thing lead to another and suddenly the party was over. So you could say the Hawaiian goose had the last nēnē at his expense because it’s still making babies.
The Party’s Over.
If you do technical then the nēnē’s official handle is Branta Sandvicensis, which as you are already well aware of refers to the Sandwich Islands which is what they used to call Hawaii. While there were 25,000 of them making whoopee when Captain Cook arrived, they must have made too many open sandwiches from them, because nowadays there are less than 800 of them born fee and say another 1,000 in captivity that does not seem quite fair.
The biggest problem nēnēs face is they don’t seem sure whether they ought to fly. Some do, some don’t and some attempt a wobbly effort that often leaves them in the drink. Mostly they hang around in shrub land, grassland and coastal dunes on the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Molakai and Kauai, where they have been known to wander off with golf balls and try to hatch them.
Hawaiian Geese are generally more responsible than most human people. They pair for life. Dad hangs around to keep an eye on things and wash the nappies so to speak while mum raises them and teaches them good manners. They are also polite to people. Although one may drop a poop on the golfer’s head at the sheer excitement of spotting another golf ball just missing going down.
On a more serious note we have to say that nēnēs list vulnerable to extinction. In fact, they would have vanished in the 1950’s if a genuine hero named Peter Scott had not bred them in captivity and reintroduced them to the islands. So if you are out driving on a lonely road with no one watching except Hawaiian geese standing in the middle, do the world a favor and give them priority to cross. The locals protect their state bird jealously. They got Captain Cook. Imagine what they could do to you.