Endangered nene geese pose hazards at Kauai airport

The Hawaii state bird is an endangered species, constantly threatened by mongoose, dogs, rats and other introduced animals even as they cope with the loss of grasslands and forests to development.

But nene geese have found a safe home among the green golf course fairways and ponds of a Kauai resort, and they are thriving — exploding from just 18 birds in 1999 to some 400 today.

In fact, the population at Kauai Lagoons has grown so fast and large the geese are now considered the threat. They pose a public safety hazard to the commercial airliners taking off and landing at the airport next door, forcing the state to scramble to devise a plan to move them somewhere else.

“With the numbers that are nesting, it’s just like, boy there are going to be more and more birds there,” said Paul Conry, administrator of the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “If we don’t take action now, they will even get higher and higher in the future.”

The dangers geese present to airplanes became well known after a flock of Canada geese crossed paths with a US Airways plane over New York City in 2009, knocking out both engines and forcing the pilot to bring the aircraft down in the Hudson River.

Similar incidents have caused deaths: 24 airmen in Alaska were killed when a flock of Canada geese got sucked into the left side engine of an Air Force plane in 1995. The jet crashed 43 seconds after takeoff.