Get your tissues out, my friends, because this is one of those sneak-up-on-you sad stories. It might sound silly to start with, but you’re gonna end up feeling real sad once we’re done.
For here is the tragic tale of Nigel No-Friends, a New Zealand gannet, who lived his entire life alone on an island, surrounded by nothing but concrete gannet statues.
NZ conservationists had planted the statues on uninhabited Mana Island in the hopes that they;d attract other gannets and start a new colony of the endangered bird.
It worked, but only in the most generous sense. The only bird to show up was Nigel.
He arrived in 2013, and spent five years courting one gannet replica in particular – building a nest, attempting to groom her, and chattering away at her as the years went by.
A few weeks ago, conservationists were thrilled by the arrival of three real gannets, who they assumed would befriend Nigel. Alas, it was not meant to be. They say that he remained totally uninterested in his flesh-and-blood companions, preferring the company of his cold mistress. And then he died.
Friends of Mana, a volunteer group that works on the island, have said that they’re “devastated” at Nigel’s death. So is most of the internet, who have been unexpectedly winded by his story.
Nigel, the world’s loneliest bird, died next to the stone decoy he loved. Scientists placed decoys on an island hoping to establish a bird colony but only Nigel took the bait. This is one sad story. And pretty cruel. https://t.co/CcrRkkyobu @karinbrulliard
— Darryl Fears (@bydarrylfears) February 2, 2018
“Nigel, perhaps the loneliest bird on Earth, even built a nest from seaweed, mud, and twigs for his concrete love” 😢 😔 😞 https://t.co/I4Fx86QNYD
— Adam Lang (@AdamBalfourLang) February 2, 2018
I never thought a story about an isolated New Zealand bird would break my heart but it has. No point making any more plans for Nigel. 😢 https://t.co/dmXSkLPwFm
— Reetu Kabra (@ReetuKabra) February 2, 2018
— Fr. Andrew Ellison 🌵 (@AndrewRedRDR) February 2, 2018
However, Nigel’s sad life and demise may not have all been in vain. Department of Conservation ranger Chris Bell, who found Nigel’s body among his concrete mates, said:
From a conservation point of view, he was a massive asset to have. Because the concrete gannets – they may have fooled Nigel, but they never fooled another gannet. We always considered Nigel increased our chances of getting a colony going, and that seems to be in the end what happened.
He was an attraction that helped bring in other birds – gannets like to nest where a gannet has nested before. It’s really sad he died, but it wasn’t for nothing.
He also gave this poetic summary of Nigel’s solitary life on Mana Island:
I think it must have been quite a frustrating existence. Whether or not he was lonely, he certainly never got anything back, and that must have been a very strange experience, when he spent years courting. I think we all have a lot of empathy for him, because he had this fairly hopeless situation.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read the happy version of this story, which is entitled ‘A duck fell in love with a rock’, and pretend that Nigel’s concrete bride turned into a real gannet and whisked him away because if even gannets can’t find love among the living then what’s the damn point of anything.