START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
2,219,329 people care about Environment & Wildlife

62-Year-Old Female Albatross Still Sexually Active

62-Year-Old Female Albatross Still Sexually Active

At age 62, Wisdom the Laysan albatross has produced a healthy chick, hatched last Sunday at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Ocean. This atoll houses about 70 percent of the world population of albatrosses.

Scientists and biologists are reacting with wonder to this little bundle of joy.

Indeed, it’s amazing that this albatross, the oldest known living wild bird at age 62, is even alive, let alone having a chick.  The average Laysan albatross lives between 12 and 40 years, and scientists believed that, just like other birds, albatross females became infertile late in life.

Wisdom is proving them wrong. Her poor mate, presumed to be much younger, apparently does not merit a name. In the above photo, Wisdom is trying to nudge him off her precious egg.

Wisdom was first banded in 1956, during the Eisenhower administration, as she incubated an egg, and she was estimated to be at least 5 years old then. This is the earliest age at which these birds breed, though they more typically breed at 8 or 9 after an involved courtship lasting several years.

The San Jose Mercury News reports:

Since then, she has worn out five ID bands, returning year after year to lay an egg at Midway, a remote island northeast of Hawaii that was the site of a famous 1942 naval battle. Today, it’s a U.S. national wildlife refuge where hundreds of thousands of albatrosses nest every year.

Albatrosses lay only one egg a year. Legendary long-distance marvels of the animal kingdom, they fly thousands of miles across the ocean, gliding on wind currents with their large wings. They feed on fish, squid and other marine life.

Researchers estimate that if Wisdom flew typical routes, she quite probably has traveled 50,000 miles a year as an adult. That’s at least 2 million to 3 million miles since she was first banded, the equivalent of four to six trips from Earth to the moon and back.

Scientists are hoping that Wisdom’s advanced-age reproduction can help them understand more about these fascinating birds, and also about the health of the ocean.

However, it may be that scientists first need to improve the way they track these birds. Since 1956, thousands of Laysan and other species of albatross have been banded. The study was undertaken to try and understand why so many were of them striking and damaging Navy aircraft, as well as killing themselves.

Did they consider that these birds were on suicide missions, I wonder? They must have hated Navy aircraft invading their peaceful home. In any case, the tracking bands tend to fall off after 20 years, sometimes before there is time to replace them.

Sadly, humans are probably responsible for the demise of the albatross: fishermen throw bait into the ocean to lure fish, but these large birds swoop down to consume the fish, and end up swallowing fish and hook. That often leads to their death. As of now, 19 of 21 albatross species are threatened with extinction.

Perhaps Wisdom can help keep up the population of albatrosses! Unlike the albatross in Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Wisdom seems to be an omen of good luck, and definitely not a curse.

 

Related Care2 Coverage

Lesbian Albatross Raising Chick Together

America’s Oldest Known Wild Bird (60!) Gives Birth

Albatross Hitches A Ride In Los Angeles

 

Read more: , , , , ,

Photo Credit: USFWS Pacific

quick poll

vote now!

Loading poll...

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

107 comments

+ add your own
11:01AM PST on Mar 1, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

10:44PM PST on Feb 15, 2013

I'm definitely older than those birds...

7:15PM PST on Feb 15, 2013

Never underestimate the powers of a female! Looks like Wisdom is doing all she can to help her species survive...you go girl!

11:50PM PST on Feb 14, 2013

This is an amazing and fascinating story, but I'd swear I read it a year ago. Is this the same bird, or the article resurrected again and re-dated or what?

12:40AM PST on Feb 13, 2013

Thanks for sharing

6:00PM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Awww what a cute story. Go Wisdom! ;)

1:46PM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Very cool, thanks.

2:54AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

Nature always find it`s ways :-) Thank you

2:53AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

That`s my bird :-)

11:03PM PST on Feb 10, 2013

tks

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

Robert F., Robin P. & Roxana S., thank-you! Excellently said!!! Nina S. It is their hormones. …

Celsus, cont. ""The mother of Jesus is described as having been turned out by the carpenter who was betrothed…

Some people think they should drive a tank (SUV) to commute to work every day.

meet our writers

Judy Molland An award-winning writer and teacher, Judy Molland is also an avid hiker, backpacker, and nature... more
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!



Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.