When people think about the birds of Hawaii they usually think about one of two things: the wild chickens (also known as Jungle Fowl) or the parrots in the hotels. While both are beautiful (yes, our chickens are beautiful) neither of them are true Hawaiian birds. The chickens were brought by the Polynesians who became the Hawaiians and the parrots were brought later by sailors who had visited South America, Africa, or Asia.
The true Hawaiian birds are much more rare. Many bird watchers spend their life looking for the elusive Hawaiian Honey Creeper. In Hawaiian it is known as the i’iwi and it’s bright red plumage was treasured by Hawaiian royalty. Easier to find, but equally protected and revered is the Nene, or Hawaiian Goose.
It’s scientific name is the Branta sandvicensis and it is endemic to Hawaii, meaning it evolved here and nowhere else. It is the official bird of the State of Hawaii and exists in the wild nowhere else on the planet. Scientists think it evolved from a pair of wayward Canada Geese who found paradise and refused to leave about a half million years ago (can you blame them?) There were larger varieties which were hunted to extinction shortly after humans arrived in Hawaii. Somehow, the nene survived and today it is considered a living treasure.