66 Year Old Bird Hatches New Chick

If you follow my writing, you know that toward the end of January or early February, I start to get anxious for Wisdom. She’s a Laysan Albatross who lives on Midway Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Here’s the great news: She’s back and she’s hatched a new chick!

IF you can’t see this video, click here. Also see USFWS Tumbler account
Wisdom and her new chick, February 2017.

She’s the oldest known wild bird in the world

Let me break that down:

Oldest – Wisdom has been continuously banded since December 10, 1956. At that time, she was presumed to be at least five years old because these birds start breeding at about five years old. She was sitting on a nest near the Charlie Barracks when banded. Hence, at least five.

Known – If Wisdom is five years old, it’s very likely that there are other Laysan albatrosses who are older. We just didn’t happen to band them. Sometimes, science is based on a bit of luck. We got lucky with Wisdom, but who knows how old her neighbors are?

Wild – There are older birds in captivity. Parrots are especially known for living a long life in captivity. But in the wild, she’s the oldest known wild bird.

She doesn’t hatch a new chick every year. Last year, for whatever reason, her egg didn’t hatch. Perhaps, it was cracked, or perhaps it was just a bad egg. No one knows. Also, Laysan albatrosses are known to take a sabbatical, or a year off now and then. Scientists started really paying attention to Wisdom in 2002, when she was recaptured, ironically by the same ornithologist who had originally captured her, Chandler Robbins. They realized then that she was 51 years old, among the oldest known wild birds. They put a red band on her leg, Z333, so she could be easily identified while in flight. They know that she has continuously nested since 2008. So, if she doesn’t come back next year, she could be lost to the wild, or she could be taking a sabbatical.

Each year, I wait in December to see if she’s returned. Then, I wait in February to see if she’s hatched a new chick.

Also see USFWS Tumbler account.

Buy the book, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS.

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross | Surviving plastic pollution and other disasters for over 65 years. | Mims House
Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly.


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