World mourns death of tragically lonely NZ gannet

  • 03/02/2018
Nigel, pictured sitting behind his two concrete mates.
Nigel, pictured sitting behind his two concrete mates. Photo credit: Friends of Mana Island

The sad death of 'Nigel no mates' - the lonely New Zealand gannet who spent years trying to seduce a concrete bird - has been reported around the world.

Nigel arrived on uninhabited Mana Island five years ago and quickly became besotted with one of 80 concrete decoys birds on the island.

The decoys were built alongside the sound of breeding pairs in a bid to mimic nesting gannets and encourage living birds back onto the pest free island, off the Porirua coast.

When Nigel arrived, he was the first gannet to fly in to roost in 40 years.

Instead of bringing a partner, he became infatuated with a decoy and was seen apparently trying to woo it as he built a nest of seaweed and twigs on the cliff's edge.

Last week, after years of fruitless advances, he died, with his tragic story retold by outlets such as The Guardian and BBC.

Mana Island Conservation ranger Chris Bell said the "incredibly sad" passing felt "like the wrong ending to the story".

He found Nigel's body next to his immobile partner, apparently refusing to be separated from it despite three living gannets recently arriving on the island.

"I certainly feel sad, having had him sit there year after year with his concrete mate," Mr Bell told Stuff.

"It would have been nice if he had been able to hold on a few more years and found a partner and bred."

Yet Nigel's unrequited love may not have been for nothing.

His presence on the island might have helped convince the three new gannets to come to the island, raising hopes a new breeding colony could yet start up.

"He was an attraction that helped bring in other birds - gannets like to nest where a gannet has nested before. It's really sad he died, but it wasn't for nothing," Mr Bell told The Guardian.