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How Old is the Oldest Known Wild Bird in the World?

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross, is the oldest known wild bird in the world. At over 69 years old, here's the most amazing thing: she's about to hatch a new chick!

Banded in 1956

On Dec. 10, 1956, ornithologist (bird scientist) Chandler Robbins banded 99 Laysan albatrosses in the ‘downtown’ area of Sand Island, Midway. 50 years later, Robbins returned to Midway and caught one of these birds again. They assumed she was at least five years old when banded since she was nesting and these birds have to be at least five years old to breed. That makes her 69+ years old.

Laysan albatrosses are magnificent seabirds with a wingspan of about seven feet. Standing knee high, they weigh about eight pounds. Their wings can lock the "elbow" so they can soar high on the winds for days at a time.

They remain at sea for about half the year before returning to nest on Midway Island in late November or early December. There, they lay eggs and tend their chicks until the chicks fly in May to July. 

Laid an Egg

This year, scientist sighted Wisdom on November 29, 2020, and confirmed that she'd laid an egg. How do they know it's her? She has a special leg band, a bright red one, with the letters ZZZ on it. They can spot her at a glance.

Wisdom 2020. Photo by Jon Brack/Friends of Midway Atoll NWR
Wisdom and her mate,  Akeakami, take turns sitting on the nest and flying to their preferred fishing areas of the North Pacific to eat. When the chick hatches, they'll take turns bringing back food for the chick.
Wisdom has laid an egg every year since 2006, an unusual feat. Often the birds take off a year now and then. We don't know how many chicks she's successfully hatched, but scientists estimate at least 30-36. In 2017, the chick that she fledged in 2001 was observed just a few feet away from her current nest, marking the first time a returning chick of hers has been documented.
Read Wisdom's remarkable story, including how she survived the 2013 Japanese tsunami.
Wisdom cover
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