This is the world’s saddest story about the world’s loneliest bird.
Nigel was perhaps the victim of a well-intentioned experiment.
He was the first gannet to truly live – and die — on Mana Island off the coast of New Zealand.
He was lured there in 2013 by wildlife officials who had placed concrete gannet decoys around the desolate speck hoping to attract a gannet colony. They also played bird calls hoping to woo a flock. But only Nigel “no mates” came and stayed.
He also fell for an inanimate bird. And that’s where he was found dead in recent days. Beside his beloved replica gannet.
“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,” the Washington Post wrote in its obituary of the loveless bird.
Local bird lovers also despaired.
“Some sad news from the island,” the Friends of Mana Island Facebook group posted. “Nigel our first gannet has died suddenly. Nigel won the hearts of FOMI members and visitors to the island, settling there alone. Volunteers have spent many hours over the years maintaining the concrete colony.
But as it turns out, he was not quite so alone.
There were new arrivals spotted there late last year.
A reason to be optimistic.
“Here’s hoping the three new arrivals stay and reproduce,” the Friends of Mana Island, in ode to dearly-departed Nigel.
Gannets have indeed come and gone.
Here’s Nigel interacting in 2016 with a Johnny-come-lately gannet named Norman.
But only Nigel made Mana Island his home.
Conservation ranger Chris Bell, who found Nigel’s body, said the loss is “incredibly sad.”
“This just feels like the wrong ending to the story,” he told the BBC.
A poem has been penned in Nigel’s honour.
“You built a nest, you did your best
But only Norman dropped on by.”