The World’s Oldest Known Wild Bird
Wisdom is a remarkable bird in more ways than one. At 66, she is the oldest known wild bird but she has recently hatched a chick. Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, has managed to hatch a chick two years in a row which is unusual even for a young bird.
Wisdom is a resident of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument on Hawaii’s Midway Atoll where she is monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She has been hatching chicks for the past six decades. Wisdom is helping to give scientists greater knowledge of fertility in wild birds whilst helping to preserve her species with her offspring. An albatross will normally lay one egg per year at best and so Wisdom is extremely productive.
Wisdom’s amazing story began in 1956 when biologist Chandler Robbins banded an ordinary-looking Laysan albatross. The bird wasn’t seen again until 46 years later when she was captured by chance and by Chandler Robbins. This dynamic duo make for a good partnership as Robbins is now 98 himself and is still working! Chandler knew that Wisdom was a fully mature adult when he first captured her and so she must now be at least 66 years old.
Wisdom and her Mates
Like all albatrosses, Wisdom and her mate, Akeakamai, return to the same spot every year to renew their relationship. This could be the place where Wisdom herself was hatched. Albatrosses mate for life but will find a new partner if their mate dies. Wisdom has managed to outlive several males and has raised many chicks with Akeakamai since 2006.
Her latest offspring has not been named and hatched after a two-month incubation period. It is rare for an albatross to lay an egg two years running but wisdom has managed it and is clearly still highly fertile. Her new baby has been banded and both Wisdom and Akeakamai are guarding their baby carefully. They take turns flying out to sea in order to find food. Albatrosses spend as much as 90% of their time in the air and it is estimated that Wisdom will have flown more than 3 million miles in her lifetime.
The chick’s band means that the new ball of fluff can be followed throughout its life. Maybe it will have inherited Wisdom’s longevity and people will be talking about this bird in 2083!