For the first time since the 1700s, endangered Hawaiian geese, or nene, have been seen in the wild on Oahu’s North Shore.
A pair of intrepid nene have nested and successfully hatched three goslings at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
While the nene -- Hawaii’s state bird -- used to breed all over the Hawaiian Islands, the roughly 2,000 remaining geese have been restricted to the islands of Hawaii, Kauai and Maui. Until today, the birds could only be found on Oahu in captivity at the Honolulu Zoo.
Amazingly, however, the newly discovered pair found their own way to Oahu without human intervention.
Steve Hess, a U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist, said the nene can fly long distances -- they're known to cross the Big Island in a day -- so it's not surprising that they would fly to Oahu.
"But the fact that they would stop and raise youngsters over there -- that's pretty remarkable," said Hess.
Oahu is Hawaii’s most heavily populated and developed island, and Hess noted that the little family faces multiple obstacles there, including urbanization and predators such as mongooses, rats and dogs.
Nene geese, which likely evolved from ancestors much like the Canada goose, are the sixth most endangered waterfowl species worldwide. Scientists believe about 25,000 nene existed when Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii in 1778, but by the mid 1940s, only 50 birds remained.
Needless to say, a lot is riding on the new Oahu family. We’re certainly rooting for them.