Nigel the lonely gannet finds love with a concrete decoy on Mana Island
A lonely gannet has found love with a concrete decoy high on a rocky outcrop off Porirua.
For 40 years a colony of concrete gannets has sat 80 metres above sea level on Mana Island, surrounded by fake bird poo, to lure real birds into making their nests on its terraces.
Finally, last November, the decoys succeeded in attracting a single male.
But in the absence of any company, Nigel has paired up with one of the decoys.
"He's really taken with it ... he likes it so much he's built a nest out of dirt and seaweed," said Friends of Mana Island president Brian Bell.
"He's a lovely bird, but he's a bit confused. We think he must be a young male kicked out of another colony."
Bell said the 80 concrete birds were put on the island's west side in 1976, but never managed to attract the real thing and were eventually overgrown by weeds.
In 2012, the colony was unearthed and shifted to another terrace. A solar-powered sound system played gannet calls over and over out to sea, and volunteers repainted the fake guano every year.
Professor of behavioural ecology at Massey University Dianne Brunton said Nigel – so called because he has no mates – might actually may be a Nigella but he was almost certainly looking for a mate.
"He's obviously quite desperate ...it's good practice for him."
She said decoy birds were commonly used to encourage other birds into nesting because there was safety in numbers.
"Many of the gannet colonies are full so new birds aren't going to get in. He's flown over and seen some potential mates on the rocks below.
"My guess is he will figure it out and won't do it again."
Friends of Mana Island volunteer Philippa Sargeant said she was weeding the colony when Nigel did a fly by to check things out.
"He settled down with his mate and was wooing her with his neck going up and down.
"He let us get quite close to him and didn't seem very worried."