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?
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: