Good News About A Bird

March 11th, 2011 | 1 Comment
For the Birds

A female albatross who is at least sixty-years old has just hatched a new chick at her nest at Midway Atoll in the central Pacific. This bird, named Wisdom, breaks records for wild bird longevity and parentage.

Conventional wisdom on albatross longevity is that, with luck, they can live up to 50 years, perhaps longer. But Wisdom is not a conventional bird. Now we know that “longer” is the right answer.

A scientist named Chandler Robbins first put a numbered band on her leg in 1956 as she incubated an egg. Now, the thing is, her species—Laysan Albatrosses—don’t breed until they’re at least 5 years old. So she was hatched no later than 1951. But they typically don’t breed until they’re even older, 8 or 9 years, after courtship that lasts several years. This means Wisdom is likely to be in her early sixties.

She looks damn good for her age!

Albatrosses can only lay one egg per nesting season. And they can’t breed every year. Wisdom’s species often nests 2 out of every 3 years, or so. It’s possible she’s hatched about three dozen chicks. For albatrosses, that’s exceptional.

One unresolved question: is Wisdom a cougar?

See also two articles: US Geological Survey: She flies on and on and on and This Just In on CNN.

US Fish and Wildlife Service Photo: 60 Year Old Albatross

I’ve never been face-to-bill with Wisdom herself though I’ve been to Midway twice.

I’ve been to many of the world’s greatest albatross colonies on far-flung ocean islands in several oceans and have written a lot about these greatest of all flying birds (my opinion!).

For more info and beautiful imagery about albatrosses in general:

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One Response to “Good News About A Bird”

  1. Carl Safina says:

    Some added info about the Tsunami. The Tsunami following the earthquake that caused so much devastation along Japan’s coast on March 10 spread across the whole Pacific Ocean and overwashed parts of Midway Atoll. Midway is very low, most of it is just a few feet above normal sea level.

    Here is some info on how the tsunami affected the atoll and its birds. It caused extensive bird mortality:

    Tsunami and Midway Atoll NWR
    We’ve been watching for news about how Midway Atoll NWR and other Pacific refuges fared after the tsunami passed today. We gather the humans could make it to higher ground, but we know a lot of birds are nesting on the islands now, including the Laysan albatross named Wisdom and the famous short-tailed albatross — both at Midway Atoll NWR.

    A post on the Friends of Albatross on Midway blog reports:

    Tsunami Hits Midway
    Guest blogger Anna here with news about the aftereffects of the tsunami on Midway Atoll.

    The earthquake off the coast of Japan generated a tsunami that hit Midway around 11:40 pm last night. The tsunami was about 5 feet high, and flooded some parts of the island. Sadly, at least some chicks and adult LAALs were killed, and dozens if not hundreds of chicks were washed away from their nests onto roadways and under bushes. Fortunately the nests inland were not affected, and both the adult LAALs and their chicks are going about their business as usual. The chicks are fuzzy balls of fluff right now, and should be ready to fly in a few weeks.

    Hopefully we’ll get some FWS reports once it becomes easier to get around and survey the damage.

    Update from USFWS Pacific Region Facebook page
    Midway Tsunami Report- 4′ waves, roughly 30 min apart last night; Initial recon found 25% of airfield overwashed seawall. Flooding “much worse” than the storms earlier this year. Unknown seabird mortality.
    Check for updates here: http://www.refugewatch.org/2011/03/11/tsunami-and-midway-atoll-nwr/

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