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The Legacy of Nigel, the Lonely Gannet of Mana Island

Nigel, the world’s loneliest seabird has passed away, but conservationists are hopeful that his legacy will live on as the Gannet colony on Mana Island grows.

Two miles off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island lies Mana Island, which, for the past three years, was home to a lonely bird named Nigel. Nigel spent these years as the only living Gannet on Mana Island in a colony of decoy seabirds. Gannets like many other species of seabirds are considered philopatric which means they return to nest at the same place they were born and rarely venture off to start a new colony. Stephen Kress, Vice President of Bird Conservation at the National Audubon Society commented:

Without birds like Nigel, there wouldn’t be any new colonies. The species would be locked into this philopatric pattern.

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Nigel the Gannet and two concrete friends. Credit: New Zealand Department of Conservation

In the 1990s the New Zealand Department of Conservation spearheaded a project to attract Gannets to Mana Island in order to try and diversify the breeding sites of the species. The predator-free island made it ideal nesting habitat for seabirds; conservationists used decoy seabirds made out of concrete and played recorded Gannet calls to attract the social seabirds. At first the project seemed relatively ineffective, but three years ago, a single male Gannet landed ashore. The conservation team named him Nigel.

Since Nigel was the only living Gannet on the island, his mate choices were slim so he began to woo a decoy seabird by building a nest. Although Nigel’s efforts to mate were clearly fruitless he did manage to grow the Gannet colony on Mana just by being present. In recent months, three more individuals have arrived on Mana Island and conservationists think more will follow.

Although conservationists are saddened by the loss of Nigel they are hopeful for the future of the Gannets on Mana.

Featured image: Australasian Gannet.Credit: I Am birdsaspoetry.com
Source: The Washington Post

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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