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‘Nigel the lonely gannet’ woos a concrete replica bird for years and then dies



For forty years, conservationists in New Zealand have been trying to draw in more gannets to start a colony on the uninhabited Mana Island off the coast of the north island. Specifically, they have been using painted concrete gannet models and solar-powered speakers projecting the sound of gannet calls in an attempt to attract gannets onto the island.

Inanimate gannets


This proved unsuccessful for a long while, as the inanimate birds, repainted each year by local volunteers, did not seem to attract any attention from gannets. Many years past and still the island remained empty, but for the lifeless replicas of birds. Recorded calls of gannets echoed against the rocky cliffs. No gannets replied.

Lonely Nigel


Then, in 2013, a lone gannet, since named Nigel, appeared. It was thought by volunteers that this young male was perhaps rejected by his own colony. Thus, a little confused, and seeking others of his own kind out of a sense of necessity and duty, he caught sight of the 80 gannet models on the island, heard the recognisable calls, and settled on Mana Island in order to join what he thought was a group of live gannets in the hope of being able to find a mate.
 

Wooing rituals and nest building


Nigel lived there for nearly half a decade without another gannet joining him. And yet, this did not stop Nigel from trying his best to pair up with another bird. So focussed was Nigel on finding a mate that he began to woo one of the concrete gannet models who took his fancy. Unfortunately, as the model was not a real-life gannet, it did not show any signs of returning the interest, despite Nigel making a nest and performing the rituals which a male gannet will do when aiming to please his potential female mating partner.

New settlers join besotted Nigel to no avail


After a few years which followed on in this vein, and soon after the conservationists changed the sound of the recorded gannet calls slightly, other gannets finally joined Nigel on the island. Nigel though remained focused on the painted replica gannet which first won him over and did not seem to interact at all with the new settlers. And this is the way it remained for two or three weeks, before Nigel died.

A sad end?


A Ranger Chris Bell found his body last week, and said about the whole matter: ‘This just feels like the wrong ending to the story. He died right at the beginning of something great.’ However, can this sad end be seen in a more cheerful light?

Wooing rituals and nest building


Nigel lived there for nearly half a decade without another gannet joining him. And yet, this did not stop Nigel from trying his best to pair up with another bird. So focussed was Nigel on finding a mate that he began to woo one of the concrete gannet models who took his fancy. Unfortunately, as the model was not a real-life gannet, it did not show any signs of returning the interest, despite Nigel making a nest and performing the rituals which a male gannet will do when aiming to please his potential female mating partner.

New settlers join besotted Nigel to no avail


After a few years which followed on in this vein, and soon after the conservationists changed the sound of the recorded gannet calls slightly, other gannets finally joined Nigel on the island. Nigel though remained focused on the painted replica gannet which first won him over and did not seem to interact at all with the new settlers. And this is the way it remained for two or three weeks, before Nigel died.

A sad end?


A Ranger Chris Bell found his body last week, and said about the whole matter: ‘This just feels like the wrong ending to the story. He died right at the beginning of something great.’ However, can this sad end be seen in a more cheerful light?

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