Guess Now: How Old is the World’s Oldest Known Bird?

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albatross
Wisdom has a remarkable history of successfully raising chicks. Her newest chick finds comfort in her mother’s embrace. (Photo: Bob Peyton/USFWS)

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, is the world’s oldest known breeding bird in the wild. And now she is a mother once more!

On February 6th, approximately two months after Wisdom began incubating her egg, Wisdom and her mate Akeakamai welcomed their newest chick to Midway Atoll.

Wisdom is an incredible 67 years old.

Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is a special place for over three million seabirds – they return to Midway Atoll each year to rest, mate, lay eggs, and raise their chicks.

Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is a special place for over three million seabirds – they return to Midway Atoll each year to rest, mate, lay eggs and raise their chicks. (Photo: Dan Clark/USFWS)

“Laysan albatross and other seabirds depend on the habitat protected by Midway Atoll and other remote Pacific wildlife refuges,” said Bob Peyton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Manager for Midway Atoll Refuge and Memorial.

Biologists with the Fish and Wildlife Service are working to restore the habitat seabirds need at Midway Atoll and throughout the Pacific and remove threats like invasive predators – because protecting the future for seabirds mean protecting the places they call home.

Albatrosses and other seabirds return to the same nesting site each year. Wisdom has been using the same nesting site on Midway Atoll since at least 1956, when she was first banded. Albatross lay a single egg and incubate it for a little over two months. After the chick hatches, it will still be another five months before it will leave the nest. In that time, Wisdom and her mate Akeakamai, like all albatross parents, take turns incubating the egg or caring for the chick while the other forages for food at sea.

“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!”

It starts with Wisdom and Akeakamai. Wisdom and her mate, Akeakamai, take turns caring for their egg and now their newest chick. (Photo: USFWS)

Wisdom has successfully raised at least 30-36 albatross chicks over the course of her life. Because Laysan albatross don’t lay eggs every year and raise only one chick at a time when they do, the contribution of one bird to the population makes a huge difference. Wisdom’s recent addition has expanded her albatross family and contributes to the continued health of the Laysan albatross population overall.

The refuge and memorial is home to the largest albatross colony in the world and is the most important and successful breeding colony for black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) and Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis). Globally significant, Midway is home to 36 percent of all Black-footed albatross and 73 percent of all Laysan albatross, as well as the endangered Short-tailed albatross (Phoebastria albatrus). Albatross start to arrive to return from sea to breed in late October and by the end of November nearly every available nesting space on the Midway Atoll is claimed by a breeding pair.

“Albatross invest an enormous amount of resources to raise their chicks” said Peyton. “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.”

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