Kauai News

Biologists work to protect Nēnē nested on Kaua‘i’s Pacific Missile Range Facility

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Work continues on Kaua‘i to protect the endangered native bird, the Nēnē goose, from extinction.

At Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, the birds often make their nests away from humans in the open fields at the facility where there are low levels of traffic.

The team’s current numbers for the nēnē population on base are at least 76 nesting adults that hatched 81 eggs with 35 of the goslings already identified.

“One of the reasons we see so many nēnē on base is the lack of predators,” said Daniela Casillas, a biologist for the Research Corporation of the University of Hawai‘i. “One potential predator for the birds on other islands is an invasive species of mongoose, which thankfully isn’t present on Kaua‘i.”


Casillas said their mission at the university is to ensure the nēne population co-exists with Navy activities.

“Our goal is to monitor and protect the nēnē on-base from predators and to contribute data to our partners and regulatory agencies to better understand the population recovery and challenges,” said Casillas.

Good Samaritan hazing is one method the Natural Resources team implements to ensure the nene have a safe, habitable environment. When hazing nēnē, Casillas simply walks near the birds, guiding them away from hazardous areas such as roadways.


The goal of using hazing techniques is not for the birds to leave entirely but for them to choose nesting locations away from operational areas that could be harmful for the birds or to personnel.

The United States Department of Agriculture is responsible for all hazing efforts other than good Samaritan hazing. One valuable member of the USDA team is the nene hazing dog named Sweep who implements similar hazing techniques to encourage nēnē to make their homes away from the airfield while ensuring the safety of nēnē, goslings, eggs and nests.

Casillas and her team make roves around the base, always on the lookout for nēnē not previously sighted in the area as well as for new nests and eggs laid each breeding season. Documentation and reporting of these sightings to outside agencies helps paint a better picture of how the nene population is changing year after year.


“Another reason we rove is to look for sick or injured nēnē,” said Casillas. “We are required to report these sightings to the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so that we can have the birds put into a rehabilitation program.”

The peak breeding season for the Hawaiian goose is from October to March, which is why there have been so many fluffy goslings waddling around the installation. Casillas encourages all to join in the effort to protect these beautiful creatures by admiring them from a distance and driving slowly when the animals are near the roadways.

For more information about PMRF’s environmental program, contact PMRFPublicAffairs@us.navy.mil, or visit https://cnrh.cnic.navy.mil/Installations/PMRF-Barking-Sands/.

The Hawaiian nēnē is the state bird and is currently considered endangered by the state of Hawai‘i. As new infrastructure and predators were introduced to the Hawaiian islands, the population reached an extreme low of roughly 30 birds in the 1950s according to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, but with the help of statewide conservation efforts the birds have made a significant comeback with as many as 637 individual nēnē documented on the missile range facility property alone.


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