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

Year after year, Wisdom, a Laysan albatross who is the oldest known banded bird in the world, has continued to surprise wildlife officials and her fans by reappearing at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge – and this year is no exception.

Wisdom was believed to be just five-years-old when she was first banded back in 1956 by biologist Chandler Robbins when Midway Atoll was an active U.S. Naval Air Station. In 2002 Robbins encountered her again by chance and her story took off.

She has since outlived many of her mates and relatives whose lifespans are estimated to be between 12 and 40 years in the wild, and she’s also believed to have logged more than six million ocean miles of flight time since then.

Wisdom returned to Midway Atoll earlier this winter to meet her mate, Akeakamai, and astounded everyone again by laying yet another egg at the age of 67.

38984897285_f87e64429d_zCredit: USFWS Pacific Region

Over the past months, she and Akeakamai have taken turns incubating it, and have finally welcomed another chick.

38576725200_d52440b090_zCredit: B. Peyton/USFWS Pacific Region

It will be another few months before this little newcomer fledges, and the pair will continue taking turns caring for it until it’s ready.

39490402815_08bf37a80d_zCredit: B. Peyton/USFWS Pacific Region

Her longevity and success as a mother in light of the growing problems seabirds face has offered hope for these birds  and is seen as a sign that conservation efforts to protect and restore the refuge are paying off.

Wisdom is believed to have successfully raised as many as 36 chicks in her lifetime, with each one being precious to the survival of the Laysan albatross, who are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

“Midway Atoll’s habitat doesn’t just contain millions of birds, it contains countless generations and families of albatrosses” said Kelly Goodale, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Biologist. “If you can imagine when Wisdom returns home she is likely surrounded by what were once her chicks and potentially their chicks. What a family reunion!”

6672375827_7b1ab4ddf4_zCredit: Andy Collins/NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Today, the refuge, which is about 1,200 miles northwest of Hawaii, is home to the largest population of albatross on earth, including 73 percent of all Laysan albatross, 36 percent of all Black-footed albatross and endangered Short-tailed albatross.

“Albatross invest an enormous amount of resources to raise their chicks” said Bob Peyton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Manager for Midway Atoll Refuge and Memorial. “Albatrosses and other seabirds choose Midway as their home because it’s a safe place. Thanks to the hard work of staff and volunteers, we are restoring the native habitat that the birds need for nesting sites, ensuring a future for these seabirds.”

The main threats to their survival include getting entangled in fishing gear, and an unfortunate amount of plastic pollution they’re coming into contact with. Sadly, many albatross parents unwittingly feed deadly plastic debris  to their chicks, which is taking a devastating toll. Serious concerns have also been raised about how rising sea levels are going to impact millions of seabirds who come to the Midway Atoll every year to breed and raise their young.

Hopefully Wisdom and her family will help raise awareness about the conservation efforts being undertaken to protect seabirds inspire more people to get involved.

For more updates on Wisdom, check out the USFWS Pacific Region on Tumblr and Flickr.

Photo credit: USFWS Pacific Region

137 comments

Marie W
Marie W19 days ago

Thanks

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Toni W
Toni W6 months ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W6 months ago

TYFS

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Carol J
Carol Johnson6 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Michael Friedmann
Michael Friedmann6 months ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Leo Custer
Leo C6 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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Renata B
Renata B6 months ago

A bit older than I am! Very pleased to hear that she is still alive and a mother!!! Wisdom is really the right name for her. God knows how many stories she could tell us if we could understand her. Amazing story.

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Deborah S
Deborab S6 months ago

Wonderful story. I hope lives another 67 years.

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Teresa W
Teresa W6 months ago

Ruth, do birds have wrinkles?

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Teresa W
Teresa W6 months ago

amazing

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