Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Goose on the Lava Flows??

In Hawaii, wandering atop the dark lava flows (only recently colonized by 'ohi'a shrubs), is a small goose, the Nene. I marvel that a waterbird, a goose, is at home on these rough lava beds.

Nene on the Big Island (Photo by Narca)

Hawaii's extreme isolation has posed an enormous barrier to colonization by wildlife. Any bird, mammal or butterfly that came under its own power from the nearest continent had to cross nearly two thousand miles of ocean to get there. Yet some managed the feat: a bat; a few butterflies; an ancestral finch; an ancestral thrush; a hawk. In this tropical terrain of fire, mist and rainbows, a few winged colonizers gave rise to a marvelous radiation of species.

The Nene's long-ago ancestor was very similar to the Canada Goose. In all, at least nine species of goose evolved on the Hawaiian Islands, but only the engaging Nene survives, a symbol of quintessential old Hawaii. 

You can see the Nene without too much trouble, on Kaua'i where they have been successfully introduced as part of a strategy to prevent their extinction, and on the Big Island, where they still roam the lava flows, quite at home. 

If you would enjoy seeing Nenes and other unique Hawaiian wildlife, I invite you to join me in March 2011 on a WINGS tour to explore Hawaii. Just click on the link to the WINGS website. 

We'll be linking the trip to a Midway tour, "The Albatrosses of Midway Atoll," for those who would enjoy coming on both. The Midway tour is also running this coming spring, in March 2010, and we still have a few spaces––why not join the fun?!

Nene (Pen and ink by Narca)

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