U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Pete Leary is proud to announce that Wisdom the Laysan albatross, who at age 62 (or so) is the “oldest known wild bird” in the world, has hatched another chick. (What’s the big deal? – If all humans had to do is sit on their embryos and then push them out of the nest when they were infants . . . . we could still be turning them out in our 60’s)
“Wisdom’s latest offspring “was observed pecking its way into the world” on Sunday at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the North Pacific Ocean, the agency says.”
” . . . Wisdom is apparently still doing fine and still up to the demands of motherhood even though she’s well beyond the 12-to-40 year average life span of a Laysan albatross.”
“Wisdom was first tagged by researchers in 1956, when she was already at least 5 years old. According to the Fish & Wildlife Service, she has worn out five bird bands (and mates) since then. It’s thought that she has “raised at least 30 to 35 chicks during her breeding life” and is known to have “nested … every year since 2008.”
“. . . Wisdom has flown an estimated 50,000 miles a year as an adult and:
“At least two million to three million miles since she was first banded. Or, to put it another way, that’s four to six trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again, with plenty of miles to spare.”
“Laysan albatross breed on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, at Kaena Point, and on Kauai, at Kilauea Point. Their feeding grounds are off the west coast of North America, including the Gulf of Alaska, and they spend their first three to five years constantly flying, never touching land. Scientists believe they even sleep while flying over the ocean.” (if human’s did that it would be classified as ADHD)
“Along with being monogamous, albatrosses return to the same spot each year to mate and nest, says John Klavitter, a wildlife biologist and deputy manager at the Midway refuge. So, as he told NPR’s Robert Siegel this afternoon, it hasn’t been hard to watch for her each year when the birds return in the fall.”
“Asked about whether it’s likely Wisdom’s mate has been the same male all these years, Klavitter said it’s possible — but he doesn’t have a band so the researchers don’t know just how old he is. And, Klavitter added, it’s unlikely her first mate has survived this long.” (particularly after all that insatiable mating . . .)
Wisdom’s survival, Klavitter said, is amazing. She has to have “overcome so many obstacles” over the years, from predators to the tsunami to the daily hazards from pollution, boats and other threats.
Some commenters have wondered about these birds’ mating habits. According to the Fish & Wildlife Service and other sources, albatrosses do mate for life. But given Wisdom’s age, as The Washington Post notes, she “probably had to find a new, younger mate maybe twice down the line.