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What Is Hawaii’s State Bird? How Was It Decided?

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Nene or Hawaiian Geese

All states in America have designated a bird to represent their story and values to the country. Although Hawaii is the most isolated landmass where people live on the planet, it has designated a state bird to represent its spirit. That bird happens to be the Nene, a goose that is native to Hawaii yet is believed to be a close cousin to the Canada Goose. So, how was the state bird selected, and what is so special about the Nene? Let’s explore these topics here!

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How Hawaii’s State Bird Was Selected

The Nene once spiraled down to just 100 or fewer living birds in the wild. Therefore, Hawaii decided to name the Nene as its state bird to draw attention to its value and rareness. Since then, things have turned around, and an estimated 3,000 Nene birds are flourishing on the islands of Hawaii today. It can be found anywhere in Hawaii but is most commonly seen in forested and mountainous areas of the islands.

Nene Bird
Image Credit: ArtisticOperations, Pixabay

Why Was the Nene Almost Extinct?

The Nene bird was once abundant in the lands of Hawaii. Unfortunately, hunting and habitat loss reduced the population of this species. Other things that endangered it were predators introduced to the islands that never had threats to these birds before. Changes to their habitats in coastal areas have also forced these birds to relocate or surrender to starvation.

After the community was educated and efforts were made to save these birds, their numbers have increased, and thousands of them thrive in the natural environment of Hawaii today. However, you will still see signs on all the islands while driving around, alerting you of the possible presence of Nene and the importance of leaving them alone. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island is known to “house” the largest number of Nene in one place.

Where Do Nene Birds Live?

Nene prefer living in coastal areas and forested areas, where people do not have a large presence. It would be hard to find a Nene in a place with a high human population unless you visit the zoo in Honolulu. This is why these birds are not seen much by visitors to Hawaii. Often, it requires a moderate to hard hike and a bit of patience to get a good look at a beautiful Hawaiian Nene.  

Nene Bird
Image By: ArtisticOperations, Pixabay

What Does the Nene Eat?

Nene birds get all the nutrition that they need from natural foods in the wild. They tend to munch on fruit, flowers, seeds, nuts, grass, leaves, and even shrubs. They do not require bread or other manmade foods often fed to wild birds at parks. In fact, it is not advised to feed any Nene if you come across one during your adventures in Hawaii. Instead, simply watch the Nene interact with its natural environment from afar. If you’re lucky enough, you will see one munching on vibrant Ohelu berries.

What Does the Hawaiian Nene Look Like?

The Hawaiian Nene bird has a dark face and crown and light-colored cheeks and chest. It has a short bill, a stocky body, and large, round eyes. Its legs and bill are typically dark brown or black. It has a striped pattern on its plumage that helps set it apart from the crowd. There is nothing particularly colorful or interesting about this bird’s plumage, but these are strong and hardy birds that tower over the pigeons and other flying animals that live in Hawaii.hummingbird divider


The Hawaiian Nene has not completely recovered from near-extinction, but with thousands living in the wild now, they are well on their way to a comeback. Nene birds are smart, explorative, and wary, so they tend to explore around humans but not go anywhere near them. If you come across a Nene during your Hawaii travels, keep your distance and snap as many pictures as you can. Chances are that you won’t see another one again anytime soon!

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Featured Image Credit: caromia333, Pixabay

About the Author Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Since 2000, Rachael has been a freelance writer, and has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens, so it's no surprise that animals happen to be her favorite topic to write about!