Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 |
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A nene and goslings in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 2021.
Parts of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park have been closed to give a couple of nene parents some space.
A breeding pair of Hawaiian geese, or nene, have begun nesting near the Uekahuna parking lot within HVNP, and the park has closed a portion of the lot in order to prevent close contact between the parkgoers and the endangered birds.
HVNP wildlife biologist Kristina Paxton said the female goose was discovered in a nest in the area last week. Following typical nesting behavior, the female spends most of her time sitting on her eggs, taking occasional breaks to forage, while the male stands guard.
“We don’t actually know how many eggs she has, because she’s been sitting on them every time we’ve been up there,” Paxton said, but she added that camera traps have been set up in the hopes of finding that answer the next time the mother leaves the nest. Nene clutches tend to range between two and five eggs.
Nene mate for life, Paxton said, and this particular couple have been recorded together since 2016.
The nene incubation period typically takes about 30 days, but Paxton said the goslings might need additional time before the parents move them to a different location.
Should park biologists determine the family requires further protection, additional parts of the park could be closed with little notice. For the time being, the western overlook and restroom facilities at Uekahuna remain open, along with dozens of parking spots and bus stalls.
HVNP spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said the park tends not to disclose the precise location of nests in order to discourage visitors from attempting to interact with the birds. Visitors are urged to drive slowly and cautiously, stay at least 60 feet away from any nene they see, and to absolutely never feed them.
Paxton said the birds’ nesting season, which lasts from October through May, can see anywhere between five and 20 breeding pairs set up throughout the park, although she added that nene numbers in HVNP have declined over the last several years. Currently, she said, there are an estimated 80 to 100 geese in the park, a decrease from the roughly 250 that were recorded in 2015.
“It’s probably due to a lack of new recruits,” Paxton said. “There are fewer new nene being born here.”
Paxton said the reasons for the local decline are still uncertain, guessing they may be related to drying weather conditions, but emphasized that the statewide nene population has increased over the years.
Currently, there are estimated to be 3,545 nene in the state, 1,034 of which are on the Big Island. While the species is still considered endangered, Paxton credited the goose’s rebound to years of assiduous conservation work.
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