Wildlife officials in Hawaii are celebrating the unexpected homecoming of the world's rarest goose on the island of Oahu -- a species that hadn't been seen there in the wild since the 1700s.
Hawaiian geese, also known as nene, were once a common sight along the island chain, but following the arrival of Europeans, the birds were nearly wiped out entirely by the middle of last century. By the 1950s, overhunting and the introduction of invasive predators had driven the nene's numbers to less than three dozen individuals.
Fortunately, well-choreographed captive breeding programs were able to stave off extinction for the endangered nene, increasing their population to about 2,500 today. Since 2004, conservationists have begun to carefully reintroduce the birds to islands where they'd long been absent, but officials say that a couple of pioneering nene beat them to the punch.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a pair of the Hawaiian geese has recently been spotted in a wildlife refuge on Oahu, evidently having flown to the island themselves. But as if the birds' presence there alone weren't remarkable enough, officials say three young goslings were spotted in their nest as well -- a heartening sign that the rare bird may be back to stay.