Wisdom, the World’s Oldest Known Wild Bird, is a Mom Again

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross who is the world’s oldest known banded bird in the wild, continually surprises her fans by returning to her home and welcoming a new chick almost every year.

Earlier this winter, wildlife officials announced that she had again returned to her home at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument with her mate, Akeakamai.

At the time, officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which oversees the refuge, said they suspected she might take a year off from breeding, but she surprised everyone again when she was found incubating an egg with her mate.

31368620171_e13ea9848d_zCredit: Kristina McOmber/Kupu Conservation Leadership Program/USFWS

Now believed to be at least 66-years-old, Wisdom far surpasses the average lifespan of her species, which is estimated to be between 12 and 40 years old. And on top of her impressive age, she’s still breeding.

32865240046_1dc8fabddf_zCredit: Naomi Blinick/USFWS

“Wisdom continues to inspire people around the world. She has returned home to Midway Atoll for over six decades and raised at least 30-35 chicks,” said Bob Peyton, FWS Project Leader for Midway Atoll Refuge and Memorial.

32865248136_4c18c74d5a_zCredit: Naomi Blinick/USFWS

Wisdom, who was first banded back in 1956 when she was believed to be just 5-years-old, has managed to survive decades, outliving many of her relatives. She’s also believed to have logged more than a mind-blowing six million ocean miles of flight time since then.

32063002684_8b472c7ce9_zCredit: Naomi Blinick/USFWS

While Wisdom has captured the hearts and imaginations of people around the world, she and her mate share their home with more than three million other seabirds. According to the FWS, the atoll provides a home for nearly 70 percent of the world’s Laysan albatross and almost 40 percent of Black-footed albatross, in addition to Short-tailed albatross and 20 other species of seabirds.

28449845563_eb88af4c2b_zCredit: Dan Clark/USFWS

In December, the agency counted 470,000 active nests across the entire atoll, which is now the largest albatross nesting colony in the world. For these birds, every chick who successfully fledges will help their species survive.

“Because Laysan albatross don’t lay eggs every year and when they do, they raise only one chick at a time, the contribution of even one bird to the population makes a difference,” said Peyton.

According to the National Audubon Society, of the 22 species of albatross recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 15 are threatened with extinction, and eight species are either endangered or critically endangered. Unfortunately, they continue to face a major threat from being caught in fishing gear and drowning, which is killing an estimated 100,000 albatross every year, along with the growing problem of plastic in our oceans, while the atoll itself is threatened by rising sea levels.

Hopefully Wisdom and her family will stay safe and she will continue to return home and help raise awareness about the threats seabirds are facing.

For updates on Wisdom and her family, check out the USFWS – Pacific Region on Flickr and Tumblr.

Photo credit: Naomi Blinick/USFWS Volunteer


Mark Donner
Mark Donnerabout a month ago

You can't compare animals to what happens to people when they age. A long lived animal can be as young genetically at 60 years old as it was at ten years old. It's like comparing apples and oranges since the genes of humans are completely different.

Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Telica R
Telica R2 years ago

Wow Thanks for sharing

Angela K
Angela K2 years ago

What an great and beautiful story

Robert N
Rob Chloe Sam N2 years ago

Wisdom is amazing, She certainly doesn't look 66 years old, What a beautiful story.

Chris Ringgold
Chris Ringgold2 years ago

God has truly bless Wisdom the Bird with living decades pass the average lifespan of Birds in her species.

Patricia Harris
Patricia Harris2 years ago

Heather G is right. To ensure this species and all other sea creatures are completely safe, we have got to do something about all that plastic that's been in the ocean for some time now. And if that's not bad enough, even more plastic will end up in the ocean if we aren't careful.

heather g
heather g2 years ago

Unfortunately, Midway Atoll is in the middle of the ocean and its beaches are covered in plastics. I wish government authorities would be stricter regarding ocean pollution.
Thank you for the article on Wisdom .... their breeding site looks safe, apart from the plastic garbage lining the shore. All fish and seabirds are affected...

Jennifer H
Jennifer H2 years ago

Isn't it amazing what nature/animals can do when humans keep out of their way. This is such a heartwarming and inspirational story. Thanks so much for the update on Wisdom. She was definitely appropriately named.

Kim Irwin
Kim Irwin2 years ago

What an amazing, beautiful story on so many levels. Love reading heartwarming stories like this. Such a wonderful mom to her baby chicks. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing.