Two Endangered Nēnē Killed This Week on Maui, Struck by Cars Near Kahului Airport
A bonded pair of nēnē, a male and female, were struck and killed by cars on A‘alele Street near the Kahului Airport on Tuesday afternoon.
The incident serves as a reminder for motorists to drive with caution and slow down for endangered birds.
A former DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife employee found the geese on the road. Department officials say the female was dead, and the male died a short time later. “The male may have been struck after the female, while trying to stay near its partner,” according to a department press release, which notes that nēnē commonly stay close to their mates or goslings after they’ve been injured.
Nēnē nesting season coincides with the holiday travel and shopping season. Paved roads resemble lava flows their ancestors evolved on and their large size makes it difficult for them to launch into flight quickly. Nēnē adults and goslings may be crossing busy roads now through April. Adult’s molt and replace flight feathers at this same time each year and juveniles are not ready to fly.
Nēnē prefer grassy areas, so parks and golf courses are magnets for them. The public can also protect this endangered species by keeping dogs leashed at beach parks and near golf courses, and by not feeding them.
Stephanie Franklin, a DOFAW biologist on Maui estimates there are about 15 nēnē in the busy core area of Kahului, moving between Kanahā Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanahā Beach Park, and nearby grassy areas.
“We’re so lucky to be able to see nēnē and three other endangered waterbirds species, right downtown,” Franklin said and noted that privilege means an added responsibility to share the space with the endemic wildlife of Hawai‘i.
Unique to the Hawaiian Islands, nēnē were on the brink of extinction with just 30 birds on Hawai‘i Island in the 1900s, according to DLNR. Nēnē were reintroduced to Maui in the late 1960’s within Haleakalā National Park. Today there may be about 500 nēnē reclaiming old habitats of wetlands and grassy areas at all elevations on Maui.
To report injured nēnē on Maui call 808-984-8100 or if in Haleakalā National Park, call 808-985-6170.