Generally speaking, love is for the birds.
But apparently not for a gannet New Zealand conservation officers nicknamed “No Mates Nigel,” who, until recently, was the only bird of his kind on the uninhabited island of Mana.
That is, unless you count the numerous decoys set up to lure birds like Nigel. Conservation officers put up 80 decoys years ago in an attempt to bring gannets back to the island after a four-decade absence.
It worked for Nigel, who showed up on the island in 2013, the first gannet to land there in 40 years.
He inexplicably became attracted to a particular concrete bird, for whom he constructed a nest and spent hours grooming her concrete feathers, according to the Guardian.
Nigel died this past week next to the concrete object of his avian affection, never having his feelings returned.
The Washington Post dubbed Nigel the “world’s loneliest bird.”
The ranger who found Nigel’s corpse, Chris Bell, said the experience was “incredibly sad,” reported the BBC.
“This just feels like the wrong ending to the story,” the ranger for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation added.
Ironically, Nigel’s death happened just weeks after three real gannets made themselves at home on the opposite end of the colony.
Nigel had little interest in the real birds, instead spending time with his non-responsive decoy, according to the BBC.
Strange as Nigel’s sad love affair may seem, Bell believes the gannet is a hero in his own bizarre way.
“His legacy was that he was the first colonizer and, if this turns into a real colony, he will always have been the first,” Bell told Stuff.co.nz. “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 will be sent to Massey University so experts can determine how he died.
A Facebook group called Friends of Mana Island posted this tribute to Nigel on Thursday.