Wisdom, a 68-year-old albatross, is the world’s oldest known wild bird to be a mother again

Written by on December 10, 2018 in Critter Love, Rare Critters - No comments

If home is where the heart is, Wisdom is living proof.

At 68, Wisdom is the world’s oldest known wild bird.

And, the Laysan albatross has returned once again to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge — the place she was born — lay another egg and raise yet another chick.

She done this 30 to 36 times. Give or take.

But it’s tough to keep track of such a prolific mother.

Wisdom was spotted once again at her traditional nest site on Nov. 29.

Biologists have confirmed she has laid an egg there.

Wisdom incubating her egg. Photo credit: Bob Peyton/USFWS

Wisdom was first banded as an adult in 1956.

At the time, biologist Chandler Robbins pegged her at around 5-years-old.

And it was only because Midway Island was a strategic outpost for the U.S. Navy, and Wisdom happened to nest next to one of the barracks, that she was even on anybody’s radar.

Wisdom spends most of her life at sea.

She flies for days over the Pacific Ocean and takes breaks on waves to feast on squid and fish eggs.

But Wisdom met her mate, Akeakamai, on Midway.

And once the pair is bonded, they are mates for life.

Wisdom (left) and her mate, Akeakamai (right), photographed on the Midway Atoll in Nov. 2015. Photo: Kiah Walker/USFWS

Wisdom and Akeakamai have been returning to the same nest site every year since 2006 to lay and hatch an egg.

“Biologists call this type of behavior ‘nest site fidelity,’ and it makes preserving places with large colonies of birds critically important for the future survival of seabirds like Wisdom,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Region.

Biologists on Midway band one of Wisdom’s chicks. Photo: USFWS 

Wisdom’s chicks have done well.

That 2001 chick, which returned to a nest site just a few feet from Wisdom’s current nest, was the first time a returning chick of hers has been documented.

Wisdom and her egg, which will take two months to incubate, on Midway Atoll in 2018. Photo: Madalyn Riley /USFWS

Midway is heaven for birders.

“You are bombarded by the sounds and smells of 1.2 million albatross and over three million seabirds,” Beth Flint, a biologist with the USFWS explained in a statement. “Every square foot of land, and much of the ground underfoot is occupied by a nesting bird. Itʻs like another world.”

These Pacific islands are home to colony of millions of seabirds who benefit from one of the world’s largest protected areas, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Albatross typically lay an egg every other year.

Despite her age, Wisdom has been laying an egg annually and has outlived at least one partner.

She and Akeakaima, which means “lover of wisdom,” will incubate their single egg for a little over two months.

The parents will take turns keeping it warm and searching for food.

Then, when the chick hatches, they’ll raise it for another five months before it will leave the nest.

Wisdom and her egg on Midway Atoll in 2018. Photo: Madalyn Riley /USFWS

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

You can see more photos of Wisdom in this extensive photo album.

Photos U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Region

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About the Author

Dawn Walton

Recovering newspaper reporter.

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