Bad News for O‘ahu’s Nēnē Population: We’re Down to Zero

O‘ahu is the only major Hawaiian island with no wild nēnē.
Nene - Native Hawaiian bird


We all heard the remarkable story of the nēnē pair that found their way from Kaua‘i to the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge near Kahuku in January 2014. It was a major milestone considering wild nēnē haven’t been spotted on O‘ahu since the 1700s. The pair had laid four eggs and three hatched, increasing the island’s population from zero to five.


But Mom and Dad have since died, one gosling was found dead from undetermined causes, and officials aren’t sure what happened to another, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They recently transferred the last one to a nēnē sanctuary on the Big Island.




Some back story: Mom and Dad, known as K-49 and K-60, were among hundreds of birds captured on Kaua‘i and released on the Big Island. USFWS officials suspect they were trying to fly back to Kaua‘i but ended up making a stop on O‘ahu, first at the fifth hole of the Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua and then at the 164-acre wildlife refuge. (There are nēnē at the Honolulu Zoo, but they aren’t included in population estimates because they’re not considered wild.)


Here’s to hoping O‘ahu will one day be home to nēnē again.


nene bird


This is an excerpt from the July feature story, “Flock Together.” Read more about the community effort that helped bring Hawai‘i’s endangered nēnē back from the brink of extinction in the July 2019 issue of HONOLULU. It is available on newsstands now or for purchase at Subscribe to the print and digital editions now.


Read more stories by Jayna Omaye