Understanding causes of death can aid management and recovery of endangered bird populations. Toward those ends, we systematically examined 300 carcasses of endangered Hawaiian Geese (Nene; Branta sandvicensis) from Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and Kauai between 1992 and 2013. The most common cause of death was emaciation, followed by trauma (vehicular strikes and predation), and infectious/inflammatory diseases of which toxoplasmosis (infection with Toxoplasma gondii) predominated. Toxicoses were less common and were dominated by lead poisoning or botulism. For captive birds, inflammatory conditions predominated, whereas emaciation, trauma, and inflammation were common in free-ranging birds. Mortality patterns were similar for males and females. Trauma predominated for adults, whereas emaciation was more common for goslings. Causes of death varied among islands, with trauma dominating on Molokai, emaciation and inflammation on Kauai, emaciation on Hawaii, and inflammation and trauma on Maui. Understanding habitat or genetic-related factors that predispose Nene (particularly goslings) to emaciation might reduce the impact of this finding. In addition, trauma and infection with T. gondii are human-related problems that may be attenuated if effectively managed (e.g., road signs, enforcement of speed limits, feral cat [Felis catus] control). Such management actions might serve to enhance recovery of this endangered species.
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Vol. 51 • No. 3