Nigel: The gannet who stole our hearts

Department of Conservation —  14/02/2018

It’s Valentine’s Day and we’re reflecting on the life and times of Nigel, the gannet whose tumultuous love affair with a concrete bird made headlines around the world.

The late Nigel-no-Mates (RIP) went viral last week when people learned he was the lone real gannet amongst a colony of concrete ones on Mana Island, and he’d spent years in love with a stone bird.

This was a serious case of unrequited love.

Nigel and the Mana Island concrete gannet, Photo: Friends of Mana Island.

Nigel and the Mana Island concrete gannet, Photo: Friends of Mana Island.

For as long as DOC has managed the Island, Mana had been devoid of actual gannets. The concrete colony was installed there to inspire a colony of real ones to move there. Gannets don’t like going to a place without other gannets there first – we assume it’s because they know if other gannets are there it must be a safe place.

Mana Island is predator-free and a great place for a gannet colony, but none were ever going to know that because no bird was brave enough to find out.

Until Nigel.

Nigel was so besotted with his concrete paramour, he moved to Mana Island and made it his permanent home.

Some took to lovingly referring to Nige’s cement soulmate as a ‘her’, but that was hearsay – the concrete gannets weren’t so detailed as to have genitalia. Nevertheless, Nigel remained devoted. He made Mana Island his home.

He painstakingly built his concrete paramour a nest.

He groomed ‘her’.

He doted on ‘her’. And yes, on more than one occasion – although it’s a bit indelicate to admit – he was seen trying to mate.

All in all, he loved ‘her’.

News media were eager for details about Nigel.


Our favourite stories really delved into the conservation elements:

(Check out Nige’ in the New York Times and the Washington Post).

The best part was that Nigel’s evident happiness on Mana enticed other birds to come and visit, which we’d never had before.

At the time of Nigel’s death, there were three other birds who regularly came to Mana to hang out with him on the island. We have no way of knowing if these birds will continue to visit now that Nigel is sadly no longer with us, but we’re optimistic.

Thanks to Nigel, we were able to send other gannets a message that Mana was safe place with no threatening introduced predators.

People were pretty moved by Nigel’s story. They could relate.

They wrote poems for him.

And drew pictures.

Nigel was a funny little chap and his personality was unique. But if you ask any of our DOC rangers who spend a lot of hands-on time with native species (those hatching kiwi chicks or fitting geckos with backpacks or tracking down Sirocco when he goes on a little OE), they will tell you they all have special and unique personalities; that’s one of the reasons we do what we do.

We hope the public interest in Nigel helps people understand the importance of our biodiversity work. Nigel never would have been able to settle on Mana Island and make a happy life with his concrete soul mate if the island weren’t predator-free.

Thank you to all of those who offered kind words about Nigel, or followed his story.

On his behalf, we’d like to wish all the odd couples, odd singles and conservation lovers alike a happy Valentines Day.

You were one in a million, Nige.

2 responses to Nigel: The gannet who stole our hearts


    Heart breaking!


    A love story to melt even hearts of stone.