World’s Loneliest Bird Nigel Dies on Mana Island
Nigel, a handsome gannet who lived on a desolate island off the coast of New Zealand, died suddenly last week. Wherever his soul has landed, the singles scene surely cannot be worse, Karin Brulliard reports for the Washington Post.
The bird was lured to Mana Island five years ago by wildlife officials who, in hopes of establishing a gannet colony there, had placed concrete gannet decoys on cliffsides and broadcast the sound of the species’ calls. Nigel accepted the invitation, arriving in 2013 as the island’s first gannet in 40 years. But none of his brethren joined him.
In the absence of a living love interest, Nigel became enamoured with one of the 80 faux birds. He built her – it? – a nest. He groomed her “chilly, concrete feathers . . . year after year after year,” the Guardian reported. He died next to her in that unrequited love nest, the vibrant orange-yellow plumage of his head contrasting, as ever, with the weathered, lemony paint of hers.
“Whether or not he was lonely, he certainly never got anything back, and that must have been [a] very strange experience,” conservation ranger Chris Bell, who also lives on the island, told the UK paper. “I think we all have a lot of empathy for him, because he had this fairly hopeless situation.”
As he persisted in this futile courtship, Nigel accrued something of a fan base. Mana is a scientific reserve that, like other New Zealand islands, has been the focus of replanting and rodent eradication efforts. Friends of Mana Island, one of the groups that has planted trees and shrubs, said on Facebook that Nigel “won the hearts” of members and volunteers who “spent many hours over the years maintaining the concrete colony.”
Nigel – whose nickname was “no mates” – will forever be remembered as the pioneer of the colony and credited with signalling that Mana was suitable habitat, Bell said.
Original article by Karin Brulliard, The Washington Post, February 2, 2018.
Photo by New Zealand Department of Conservation.