It’s a tragic love story in the making, as New Zealand’s loneliest gannet passed away recently on Mana Island, next to the concrete statue of his ‘mate.’ Conservationists had attempted to attract gannet birds to the island 20 years ago, by placing 80 of the concrete gannet birds there. However, only one bird responded and has spent several years attempting to woo his concrete mate.

'No Mates Nigel' arrives on Mana Island

Nicknamed “No Mates Nigel,” or Nigel for short, the gannet arrived on Mana Island in 2013, making him the only bird of his species to make the island home in 40 years.

While conservationists were initially excited, it soon became clear that only the one bird was coming to the uninhabited island. What’s more, they soon noticed Nigel had latched on to one of the 80 concrete gannets on the island in an attempt to woo a mate.

As reported by the Guardian, the gannet even constructed a nest close to the concrete bird and spent hours each day grooming her “feathers.” However last week Nigel passed away without ever having his affections returned.

Loss of 'No Mates Nigel' is 'incredibly sad'

Chris Bell is a ranger with the Department of Conservation in New Zealand, and he was the one who found the dead gannet lying next to his fake mate. The BBC quotes him as saying it was “incredibly sad” to find Nigel lying dead on the island. Bell added that it just felt like the whole story had the wrong ending.

This is especially so, as just weeks ago three live birds decided to move to Mana Island, albeit at the other end of the island. It turns out after years of wooing his concrete mate, Nigel had no interest in the real gannets.

However, Bell told that Nigel is still a hero in his own way, saying the bird’s legacy was to be the first gannet colonizer of the island.

Should a real gannet colony now set up on Mana Island, he will always be remembered as being the first. Bell says it is due to Nigel’s presence that the other birds knew about the island and they hope there will be a happier story to tell in six months’ time.

Tributes to Nigel on social media

Meanwhile, Nigel’s remains are being examined by Massey University to find out what caused the lonely gannet to die. A poetic tribute was posted to the loneliest gannet in the world on Thursday by the Friends of Mana Island on their Facebook page.

Twitter also came alive with many posts mourning the lonely gannet and paying tribute to Nigel.