America's oldest wild bird is a new mom
Wisdom, a Laysan albatross at least 60 years old, rears her latest chick on Midway Atoll last month.
March 9th, 2011
07:17 AM ET

America's oldest wild bird is a new mom

She's at least 60 years old, flies some 50,000 miles a year, has had almost three dozen kids and now she's got another one.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that Wisdom, a Laysan albatross whom they describe as the Northern Hemisphere's oldest wild bird, is rearing another chick on Midway Atoll in the Northern Pacific.

“To know that she can still successfully raise young at age 60-plus, that is beyond words," Bruce Peterjohn, the chief of the North American Bird Banding Program, said in a press release.

Biologist John Klavitter, deputy manager of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, spotted and photographed Wisdom on the atoll in February, according to a report from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The bird was first identified and banded by a USGS researcher in 1956 when she was incubating an egg, according to the USGS. As the Laysan albatross can't breed before age 5 and spends much of its life before that at sea scientists estimate Wisdom is at least 60 years old. She may be even older, though, as most Laysan albatrosses don't breed until age 8 or 9 after an extended courtship, according to the USGS.

The Laysan albatross mates for life. No word on whether a 60-year-old Mr. Wisdom is somewhere on Midway or whether Wisdom is charting new skies in that area too.

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Filed under: Animals • Nature • Science • U.S.
soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. annie

    Another miracle of nature to marvel at. So many secrets are yet to be told but are in plain view for us to discover every day. What a special planet we live on...

    March 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Husband

    My partner is actually Z333. So much for the number theorists.

    March 10, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Husband

    Wisdom is not the only albatross that hes reached an estimated 60 years. "Grandma", a Northern Royal Albatross (but sadly now passed on), made 60 in New Zealand and reared many chicks. You can Google her DVD. Go to http://www.acap.aq to read more stories about albatrosses, including Wisdom and Grandma, and their pressing conservation needs. There are people out there working for them.

    March 10, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Gary

    Does anyone know what effect the tsunami had on Midway's nesting colonies?

    March 11, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kayo

      The island is surrounded by a coral reef (atoll). If I remember correctly the highest part of the islands are only about 20feet above sea level. From what I read, they experienced an 8 foot wave. If it was just a wave and not a wall of water then only very few of the gooney's nesting close to the beach would be impacted. Most of the birds have their nests well above any surf line.

      March 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carla Barnes

      I am wondering the same thing, what will the tsunami do? Our house was next door to the "Gooneyville Lodge" wihich was an officers quarters. Sometime in the late 1940s a tsunami hit and damaged the lodge was located inland near the headquarters. When I was on the island we experienced a tsunami, that inundated the PanAM cable company buildings that were used as a school at that time. Most of the time the reef buffered that waves quite well but there have been breeches.

      March 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Carla Barnes

    This is amazing. What is even more amazing is that I may have met this bird. I lived on Midway from 1954 to 1957 and remember wildlife biologists banding birds in our yard. I will never forget one of the biologists telling me about the life cycley of the goonery bird, which was what we called them. I also remember their funny wonderful maintg ritual, it was quite a dance. It would be interesting to know where on Sand Island the nest is. My understanding is that these birds nest in proximal locations.

    March 11, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Col. Sanders

    Does anyone know if albatrosses taste like chicken?

    March 19, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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