The tragic end of Nigel, the celebrity gannet! Know about this seabird’s lonesome life and fake relationship!

Nigel the NZ gannet

Facts of Nigel

Full Name: Nigel
Marital Status: Not Known
Gender: male
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Nigel is a New Zealand gannet ( a seabird) who was found dead by the ranger in February 2018 after he fell in love with a concrete bird that was designed to attract him a true real-life mate.

The story goes like this-

About Mana Island and the concrete bird colonies

Mana Island is an uninhabited outpost island which lies 2 miles off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island and the Kapiti Coast. This 1.9-mile long island is a protected wildlife reserve. In 1976, 80 concrete birds were erected and planted on the west side of the island in an attempt to attract the gannets to form a colony there.

Source: Wikipedia (Mana and Kapiti Island, NZ)

Gannets belong to the Morus family of seabirds and their name is derived from Ancient Greek and stands for ‘foolish’. This word was chosen for them since the gannets are fearless of any predators and foolishly become easy prey to them especially during the breeding time. They continue to mate for life.

The fate of the concrete birds

The concrete and fake birds never succeeded in attracting the real gannets and instead were overgrown by weeds. Finding no success, the birds were removed from their location in 2012 and replanted to another site of the rocky isle. This time the attending staff also put a solar-power operated sound system which used to produce a sound mimicking the calls of the gannets. Every year, many people volunteered to repaint the fake gannets.

Source: The Independent (The concrete birds)

The arrival of Nigel

In November 2015, the staff and volunteers were happy since they sighted a gannet on the island in the Tasman Sea. He was a lonely one and it is believed that he was a young male who was kicked out of his previous colony. His exact age is not known when he flew to the island.

Source: Washington Post (Nigel)

But yes, he did become a celebrity when he arrived. It had taken 40 years for a gannet to arrive on the island to roost there.

Nigel got his name because he had no mates and his name was short for Nigel no friends which is the kiwi version of Billy no mates.

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His relationship

Nigel attracted another male gannet to the island who was later named Norman. But their relationship remained platonic. But the conservationists found that Nigel was trying to court one of the fake and concrete gannets on the island. He always was seen beside the decoy’s side and had also built a nest for her with seaweed, twigs, and mud.

Source: NZ Birds online (Gannets of NZ)

Many volunteers and conservationists had noted that he was trying to woo his fake lady love by making mating rituals. He was attempting to get her attention but it has been described that he was also a ‘bit confused’ possibly with no response.

He was well taken care of and was under the watchful eye of the volunteers and conservationists. He was the center of attraction and had gained a lot of fame due to it.

More birds arrive and DEATH!

Last month, the sound system was altered a bit and three more real gannets arrived on the island. But Nigel continued his infatuation with the concrete bird. A week ago, Ranger Chris Bell discovered the dead body of Nigel just next to the concrete gannet he had loved so much and he was in the nest he had built for his lady love. Chris said that it was sad to have lost him when three real birds had joined the colony.

Source: Stuff.co.nz (Mana island)

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He said:

“This just feels like the wrong ending to the story. He died right at the beginning of something great.”

A sad Chris added:

“I certainly feel sad. Having had him sit there year after year with his concrete mate, it just doesn’t seem how it should have ended. It would have been nice if he had been able to hold on a few more years and found a partner and breed.”

They are now all pinning their hopes on the three new gannets and wish that they form the colony that Nigel had without knowing started.

He continued:

“His legacy was that he was the first coloniser and, if this turns into a real colony, he will always have been the first. It’s because of Nigel that the other gannets know about Mana… maybe in six months’ time there will be a happy story to tell.”

Nigel’s body had been dispatched to Massey University, Wellington, NZ, and would be analyzed to determine the cause of his death.

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