Visitors to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park now through April could get lucky and spot pairs of the endemic Hawaiian goose, or nene, flying overhead or grazing with goslings.
While nene are present in the park year-round, this seasonal window is their breeding and nesting time, and is vital for their survival.
Currently, female nene are focused on building up their fat reserves in order to lay eggs and survive the 30-day incubation period. A few females have already started to nest in the park, and their mates are dutifully standing guard. Because visitors can unknowingly disturb nesting nene, the park may temporarily close certain areas to give nene families a break from human interference.
"Nene are most vulnerable to vehicles this time of year. They are focused on eating and could be out foraging from dawn to dusk. They blend in with their surroundings, and in low-light periods, they are especially hard for motorists to spot," said Kathleen Misajon, Nene Recovery Project manager.
The park has posted nene crossing signs that highlight key roadside areas that nene use. These include sections of Highway 11, Crater Rim Drive, and Chain of Craters Road. Motorists are urged to use extra caution in signed nene crossing areas, and to obey posted speed limits.
Nene are endangered, and in the mid-1940s, only 50 birds remained. Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park began efforts to recover the species in the 1970s. The Nene Recovery Program continues today, and more than 200 birds thrive in the park from sea level to around 8,000 feet. As many as 2,000 or more nene exist statewide.
"We've had a great deal of success protecting nene and maintaining the population in the park," said Misajon. "But it is imperative that humans keep a respectful distance from the geese, especially during this sensitive time."
Visit http://www.nps.gov/havo/photosmultimedia/nene_psa.htm for more information. To report nene on the road in the park, call 808-985-6001. Outside the park, call 808-974-4221.