Mystery Bird: Nene, Branta sandvicensis

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[Mystery bird] Nene (Hawaiian goose), Branta sandvicensis, photographed in the United States. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: John del Rio, 2008 [<a target="window" href="; width="639" height="508" /?larger view].

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
Not much mystery to the identification of this mystery bird: anyone who recognized in this bird’s large body, sturdy feet, long neck, and conical bill the classic marks of a goose will also, more or less immediately, have identified it as the distinctive, even unmistakable, Hawaiian Goose. Nearly extinct three quarters of a century ago, the species has recovered somewhat, largely thanks to captive breeding and release programs, and can once again be seen on the lava slopes it so greatly favors. Among the adaptations for its dryland lifestyle: if you look closely, you’ll see that the toes of the Hawaiian Goose are only partly webbed.
Review all mystery birds to date.


About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Mystery Bird: Nene, Branta sandvicensis

  1. Heh. “Photographed in the United States.”
    That’s a Nene (Hawaiian goose). My Sibley guide doesn’t show it, but I remember those diagonal neck streaks from the Peterson’s Western guide I had as a kid, 40 years ago. I remember how fun it was to page through the extra plates in the back of the book, showing the Hawaiian birds. Those things were wild! 🙂
    I’ve been thinking about island birds lately, because I’m re-reading (and re-falling-in-love-with) David Quammen’s book Song of the Dodo. Heavens; what a spectacularly good book that is.
    For some reason I’m not seeing the bird image on this page, but I can see it by loading the image by itself. I don’t know if that’s my fault, or something on this site.

  2. Bob O'H says:

    I’m not seeing it either. I just assumed it was a snow goose in winter.

  3. Selasphorus says:

    I’m unable to get the image to load.

  4. Bob O'H says:

    Selasphorus – right-clock and “view image” (at least with Firefox).

  5. JohnB says:

    I’m seeing it ok, but it’s a Nene. The long blonde neck and black face are pretty distinctive.

  6. Yes, I believe she fixed the image link.

  7. sorry guys. i downloaded the image AGAIN (flickr is a pain in the … ) so you can se it.

  8. Richard Simons says:

    The first time I saw a nene was just after the captive breeding program was started at Slimbridge (UK). It was difficult to appreciate their rarity when about 50 birds (close to half the world’s population at the time) were wandering around the grounds, stealing sandwiches from anyone who was careless.

  9. Rick Wright says:

    Note that the AOU name of this bird is Hawaiian Goose, Branta sandvicensis.

  10. okay, thanks rick. i actually have a strong preference for using the “native’s” names for animals, when i knew what those names are, that is. but yeah, i got the scientific name wrong.

  11. John Del Rio says:

    I drove by the same place a couple of days ago where I took the photo of this Nene. There was about 18 Nene geese at the same location this time. What a thrill to get to see such a beautiful and rare bird. They are really thriving now. I also take pride in the fact that it was aviculture that saved this species from sure extinction. That must never be forgotten.