Wisdom, the oldest known wild bird in the world, tops her own record by hatching a new chick at the age of 70.
Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and the world’s oldest known banded wild bird, recently hatched a new chick at Midway Atoll. She’s beating her own record that she set three years ago, when she stunned her fans by raising a brood at the tender age of 67. Now those fans are even more stunned by the new brood, which makes Wisdom the mother of around 30 to 36 throughout her lifetime.
The Laysan albatross has an estimated population of 2.5 million, their only natural habitat being the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Biologist Chandler Robbins first banded Wisdom on December 10, 1956, on Hawaii’s Midway Atoll, to rediscover her 46 years later, in 2002. The atoll’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is home to nearly 70% of the world’s mōlī and almost 40% of kaʻupu (black-footed albatross), as well as endangered makalena (short-tailed albatross).
Wisdom is believed to have been returning to the atoll to nest and raise offsprings with her mate Akeakamai – Hawaiian for “lover of wisdom” – since at least 2012 (that was when Akeakamai was first banded).
“At least 70 years old, we believe Wisdom has had other mates,” noted US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Dr Beth Flint in a statement. “Though albatross mate for life, they may find new partners if necessary – for example if they outlive their first mate.”
With her 70 years, Wisdom beats the typical maximum age of Laysan albatrosses by two decades. Evidently hardier than most of her fellow specimens, she and an earlier chick even survived a tsunami at the Midway Atoll back in 2011, unlike most of the other chicks on the Atoll. Scientists spotted that same chick again in 2018 just a few feet away from Wisdom’s current nest – this kind of family reunion among Laysan albatrosses living on Midway Atoll has happened for countless generations, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service: Pacific Islands.
Wisdom hatched her latest chick on February 1 this year, after about two months of incubation. That is the time when baby albatrosses bust out of their shell with the help of a temporary egg tooth during what is known as “pipping and zipping”. In the early stages of the process, the chick can be heard peeping inside the egg and sometimes even communicating with the parents. Then, it starts “unzipping” the egg with its special tooth. Parents sometimes have to come to the rescue of exhausted chicks who have almost freed themselves of their shell but are struggling to get out.
“Each year that Wisdom returns, we learn more about how long seabirds can live and raise chicks,” Flint explains. “Her return not only inspires bird lovers everywhere, but helps us better understand how we can protect these graceful seabirds and the habitat they need to survive into the future.”
Wisdom brings new wisdom year by year and we hope it stays like that for many more years to come.