Nēnē can be found in a variety of habitats and environments in Hawaiʻi, including shrublands, grasslands, old lava flows, and human-altered habitats. They nest, raise their young, forage, and molt in grassy shrublands and sparsely vegetated lava flows on the islands of Hawaii and Maui, while some populations on these islands move seasonally from montane foraging grounds to lowland or mid-elevation nesting areas. On Kauai, they primarily use lowland habitats such as coastal wetlands, with the exception of the Na Pali Coast. Nene are browsing-grazers and their diet depends on the vegetative composition of their surrounding habitats. Habitat loss due to human activities such as urban development and land conversion for agricultural activities, as well as the impacts of feral ungulates and nonnative plants, have significantly affected nene recovery. Recovery efforts involve continued land use protections, habitat management, and predator control to sustain populations in various areas. The current amount and distribution of suitable breeding, foraging, and flocking habitat continues to be a limiting factor for the nene.
Recent studies using satellite telemetry have revealed that nēnē prefer human-modified landscapes during the molting season and higher elevation locations dominated by native shrubland during the non-breeding season. They also tend to center their use around small ponds, wetlands, or water catchments, which are unusual anthropogenic features for nēnē to use given the lack of natural sources of standing water on Hawaii Island.
In 2022, about 40 nene have been injured on golf courses across the state. Injured nene on Hawaii Island are taken to the Hawaii Wildlife Center for rehabilitation, where they receive medical and rehabilitative care, including physical therapy, medication to prevent infections and treat pain, and nutritional care. The Hawaii Wildlife Center is one of only two rehabilitation centers in the state that takes in nene.
What are we doing to help?
Our sighting database allows us to pinpoint important areas where nēnē flock, nest and forage enabling us to take proactive measures to address and minimize local threats to their habitat. This year we are working on the following:
- Working with golf courses to provide additional materials to guests so they are aware of the actions required in a nēnē is injured or killed.
- Improving signage to better communicate nēnē conservation information with locals and visitors.
- Predator monitoring and mongoose trapping near coastal nesting areas.
You can help too!
- When driving, be alert for nēnē crossing signs and slow down to avoid hitting them.
- Respect nēnē’s natural habitats and avoid disrupting their nesting areas.
- Do not feed nēnē.
- Send us photos of banded nēnē!
- Support organizations and campaigns that work towards nēnē conservation by donating or spreading awareness about the issue with your friends and family.
- Educate yourself and others about nēnē, their habitat, and the threats they face.