Nene: Movin’ On Up

Posted at 3:22 pm June 18, 2010 by Sharon Belcher

MBCC staff release nene into their new home.

Red Rocket (#14) and NU (#30), our two oldest nene (or Hawaiian geese), have been around long enough to see plenty of changes. Both birds were hatched in the wild and came to live at the Maui Bird Conservation Center (MBCC) in 1987 and 1992 respectively. They were moved in 1996 from mosquito-proof buildings with concrete floors to outdoor pens with grass. Now they have brand-spanking-new pens, luxury suites of the nene world! Not only were the old pens past their use-by date, but they will soon be demolished to make space for new ‘alala (or Hawaiian crow) aviaries that will be constructed this fall (see Corvid Cupid).

An aerial view shows the new pens for nene.

Aaron’s Construction recently finished building four sturdy new pens to house our nene. Each pen comes furnished with a tented mesh “roof,” so adults and their goslings can remain fully flighted and ready for release. They have also been constructed of strong wire mesh walls to keep rats and mongoose at bay, and, of course, each pen comes equipped with shelter, hoses for easy cleaning, food stations, and pools for bathing and keeping cool in the summertime. We will keep a total of four pairs of nene, with our sights set on a goal of producing at least 75 birds over the next five years; all will be released at Haleakala Ranch as part of the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s commitment to this safe harbor agreement.

Roy Newton offers a traditional Hawaiian blessing for the nene.

Following local cultural practice, and to prepare our nene for what we hope will be a fruitful life, required the help of a Hawaiian minister. On June 3, Roy Newton visited MBCC to deliver a Hawaiian/English blessing over the new pens and anointed each with a mixture of water and Hawaiian salt so that any animal entering them will be protected. NU and Rocket moved into their new home directly after the blessing, along with the rest of the nene flock at MBCC.

We hope NU and Rocket will be around to see many more happy changes. In the meantime, they are ready to offer a warm welcome and plenty of aloha spirit to MBCC visitors during Nene Awareness Day (mark your calendars for September 26)! Read about last year’s Nene Awareness Day.

Sharon Belcher is a senior research associate for the San Diego Zoo’s Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program. Read her previous post, ‘Alala Takes Extraordinary Flight.

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3 Responses to “Nene: Movin’ On Up”

  1. Shirley Sykes says:

    Thanks for the post, Sharon. It’s wonderful that these beautiful birds now have a great new home, and I hope they produce many goslings for future release into their ancestral home. Thanks again for all you and te MBCC staff are doing!

  2. Jackson says:

    Are nenes NJ and CA still alive? Their leg bands said that. I saw them in Kauai a few years ago.

  3. Janet Gelfman says:

    There are several birds that we saw but cannot identify from the information on your site. Is there a complete listing of the birds with pictures available from some other source? May we send you pictures of the birds we cannot identify (one of them being the prehistoric looking gray bird that stands at least 3 – 4 feet tall, another one being the pink footed and billed bird that looks like a pelican)? Thanks for your help. We loved the Wild Animal Park and will visit again when we are in the area. Janet Gelfman

    Moderator’s note: We hope you enjoyed your visit to the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. The large gray bird you saw is a shoebill stork (see post The Sounds of Shoebills). You may send photos of birds you need to identify to our Customer Service division at