Wisdom, the oldest known albatross, is a mother again at 68
Wisdom, a 68-year-old Laysan albatross believed to be the world’s oldest known wild bird, has returned to her home at the Midway Atoll national wildlife refuge for yet another winter – and laid yet another egg to add to the brood she has built up over an impressive lifetime.
Biologists from the US Fish and Wildlife Service think Wisdom has given birth and raised as many as 36 chicks. Should her latest egg with her long-term mate, Akeakamai, hatch and fledge, it will be her 37th.
Monitoring of Wisdom began in 1956, when it was estimated she was about five years old.
Albatrosses are known for their long life spans and often outlive their researchers – Robbins died in 2017 at the age 98 – but what makes Wisdom unique is that researchers have been able to monitor her habits for so long. She may or may not be the oldest wild bird, but she is the oldest known wild bird, and her habits have been lovingly documented by the Fish and Wildlife Service over social media.
To a human, 68 years old may seem a rather unlikely age at which to still be laying eggs, but Wisdom and the other few documented examples of albatrosses in their 50s and 60s that do not appear to have trouble breeding at that age show the situation may be different for birds, said Beth Flint, a USFWS biologist.
Like many albatrosses, Wisdom returns nearly every year to the place where she was born for nesting and mating. Midway Atoll, an island belonging to the US that was the site of the decisive Battle of Midway during the second world war, is mostly uninhabited by humans. But in winter, more than 1m Laysan albatrosses flock to the beaches to nest.
Albatrosses spend 90% of their lives at sea, soaring over the Pacific Ocean and feeding on squid and fish eggs. The USFWS estimates Wisdom has clocked more than 6m miles in her travels.
Albatrosses form bonds with their mates for life, but researchers first noted Wisdom’s relationship with Akeakamai in 2006.