In the early 1990s, conservationists in New Zealand found that a breed of birds that had once flourished in a nearby island had all but disappeared from it. Gannet birds are a type of large seabird. Their wingspan is over six feet.
The researcher wanted to get the birds to flourish on the island again, but the birds are very social creatures. In an attempt to get the birds to land on the island, conservationists painted cement birds in the colors of the gannet. They also played seabird calls over solar-powered speakers. This was supposed to fool the birds into thinking that other birds were there so they would land and lay their eggs.
On the first day that the sounds were played, two birds swooped in to land on the island. They hoped that was a sign that it was successful. It wasn’t. Those two birds left and didn’t return.
After the researchers continued their experiment, one gannet landed on the island. They named him Nigel.
Soon after landing, Nigel took a particular fancy to one of the concrete birds. He did everything he could to woo his chosen mate, but she remained aloof...well..because she was concrete.
According to Linda Kerkmeester, the vice president of the environmental conservation group, “He nested alongside her. He was seen wooing her by preening her.”
For years, Nigel was the only seabird on the island. However, the conservation group redoubled their efforts. Once again, they repainted and repositioned the decoys and started to play noises on the loudspeaker again.
Within 10 days, Nigel suddenly had company. Though the birds came to his island, he had no interest in spending any time with them. He preferred to stay with his cement girlfriend.
One day, the conservationists went out and found that Nigel had died. According to Mr. Bell, the man who found him dead, “It’s really sad he died, but it wasn’t for nothing.”
The conservationists believe that Nigel is the reason that the three birds came to the island. As these birds interact, they will hopefully draw other birds to the island.
After Nigel’s death, conservationists on the islands posted a poem dedicated to the lonely bird, titled “To Nigel.”
“You stayed awhile on Mana Island,
Attracted by your concrete mates
You built a nest, you did your best
But only Norman dropped on by.
We weeded, we painted, we sprayed guano around.
We hoped you’d find the real thing.
Three newbies arrived, a Christmas surprise,
But suddenly you are gone.
RIP ‘no mates’ Nigel.”
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