Description of the Nene by Kepelino, 1863.



The Birds of Hawaii nei


Nene Bird.

The Nene is a bird from the high uplands, and it is a big bird; it resembles a Turkey [Pelehu] and it is that height, its legs are long, and its toes are flat, its neck is nicely slim, its head is small, its eyes are like the eyes of a Chicken [Moa], its beak is short, it has a fine loud voice, and its call sounds like, “unele, unele, unele.”

It is said in the old Hawaiian stories, that the Nene and the Fly [Nalo] were deprived of their wealth, and that is why the Nene cries in that manner, “unele, unele” [“without, without”] and the Nalo chose its place to live as Kapalapilau [“Rotting dab of excreta”], and that is still what they do.

The Nene does not eat Rats [Iole] and other things like the Hawk [Io], and the Owl [Pueo], it only eats leaves of vegetation and flowers of grasses.

The Nene is good to eat, and its meat is like that of the Chicken and the Turkey; the Nene is wild [makanahelehele], and they flee when they see humans; however, if they are cared for, they are remarkably tameable like a Cat [Popoki]; it looks for its keeper like a dog [ilio], and if its keeper is gone, it becomes very alarmed and searches here and there.

Its feathers are dark grey, and the tips of its wings are streaked reddish grey with white, like the tips of the wing feathers of the Turkey.

When the Nene cries, its head rises and its beak hooks, and its head turns a bit and it cries, “unele, unele.” The feathers of the Nene’s wings are good, and they are pared to make quills for writing on paper.

The feathers of the Nene are molted in the Winter (like the antlers of the Deer [Dia] during its time, and the leaves of the Fig [Piku] in its time.) That is when it is at its fattest and it cannot fly, and it does not run quickly, and that is when they are caught by the bird catchers of the uplands; and Spring is when its feathers grow back, and this is when they flee quickly [puhalahio].

There are many Nene in the mountains of Hualalai, and Maunakea, and Maunaloa; they live in holes, and in Hinahina plants, and that is where they lay their eggs.

[This is a reprint of Kepelino’s great treatise on Hawaiian birds mentioned in Nanea Armstrong Wassel’s Instagram post on the Nene. It is also printed once again in Lei Momi under the title “He Wahi Hoomanao no na Manu o ka Lewa.” The Nene article is found on 8/2/1893, p. 3. The three versions are not identical.]

(Kuokoa, 6/6/1863, p. 1)

KA MOOLELO o Na Manu o Hawaii nei

Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke II, Helu 23, Aoao 1. Iune 6, 1863.



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