The rarest goose in the world

Whilst Llanelli WWT is home to many beautiful, fascinating and rare species of wildfowl, none is perhaps more precious than the ‘nene’ or Hawaiian goose, the rarest goose in the world.

The nene is a very tame, gentle bird, a trait which led them to be an easy target for hunters. Destruction of their habitat for agriculture and tourism along with introduced predators (including domestic pets) to the Hawaiian islands have also led to the decimation of their wild populations.

It was back in the 1950s when the population of nene’s crashed from 25,000 to just 30  individuals, that WWT founder Sir Peter Scott (son of Antarctic explorer Captain Scott) began a pioneering conservation program to save this species from the very bring of extinction.

Scott brought birds back from Hawaii and began a captive breeding program with the aim of reintroducing the geese back to their native home. Thanks to his and other breeding programs, the wild population is currently estimated at between 2500 and 3000 birds.

The nene is believed to be a descendant of the canada goose but is only around half the size at around 16 inches tall. It has a striking black mask and beautiful terracotta brown neck feathers with deep furrows.

The rarest goose in the world



Close up of the nene


The ‘nene’ gets it’s name from it’s distinctive warning ”nay-nay’ call. However it does also make the more typical honking sound, as this individual demonstrated.


Like many of the birds at the wetland centre the nene is very approachable and undisturbed by all the human attention, in fact they seem to quite enjoy all the fuss. Whilst this made getting close enough to photograph them easy, the drab lighting conditions were less than desirable.

Preening nene



One of the nenes’ unique features are it’s partially webbed feet, quite different from most other geese species. The long toes enable them to navigate the tough rocky terrain of their Hawaiian home with ease.

Partially webbed toes


A couple more images taken during a brief break in the clouds.


Picking up spilled grain at the water’s edge


Preening beside the pond


The nene is also partial to a handout of seed and will happily feed from your hand. Everywhere we went they followed us eagerly, watching with their intelligent brown eyes and waiting patiently for us to surrender our bags of food. We were more than happy to oblige!

Room for another one?




Hand feeding the Hawaiian geese


They are so relaxed and comfortable around people you can also give them a quick tickle under the chin and touch their smooth, soft feathers.


It was a real privilege to photograph and to spend time in such close contact with this incredibly rare creature. Certainly meeting the nene goose was the highlight of our trip!



Me with the nenes!


A very brief video clip

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2019 ©

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. naturebackin says:

    What beautiful and interesting geese. I love the photo of the one honking. How nice to read about a conservation success story that saved a species from extinction.


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