World’s oldest wild bird just hatched another egg at 66

The Laysan albatross believed to own the title of the world’s oldest known avian has hatched a new chick for the second straight year – no small feat for the approximately 66-year-old bird, as it takes approximately seven months to incubate an egg and raise a chick.

In a statement released late last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) revealed that the albatross named Wisdom, who has been living at Hawaii’s Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial for more than six decades, had finally hatched an egg she that was first spotted incubating back in early December.

Wisdom, who according to NPR was first banded by biologist Chandler Robbins in 1956, has given birth to at least 30 to 35 chicks, said Bob Peyton, USFWS Service Project Leader for the Refuge and Memorial. When not incubating eggs, the agency said that she is typically extremely active, having flown an estimated three million miles over the course of her life.

“Wisdom continues to inspire people around the world,” Peyton explained. “Because Laysan albatross don’t lay eggs every year and when they do, they raise only one chick at a time, the contribution of even one bird to the population makes a difference.”

“Laysan albatross and other seabirds depend on the habitat protected by Midway Atoll and other Pacific remote wildlife refuges to raise their young. Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, we have been able to restore the native habitat that the birds need for nesting sites, ensuring a future for these seabirds,” he added.

Newborn chick may be Wisdom’s 41st child, reports say

During the seven-month period required to incubate and raise the chick, Wisdom and her mate, Akeakamai, alternate tasks – taking turns caring for the egg and foraging for food, the FWS said. Since the process requires tremendous amounts of time and energy, most Laysan albatross do not lay an egg every year, although this is the second year in a row Wisdom has done so.

Last year, Wisdom hatched a chick named Kūkini, which is the Hawaiian word for messenger, said NPR. At the time, the media outlet said that Kūkini might have been Wisdom’s 40th chick. It was first seen on February 1, shortly after Akeakamai assumed incubation duties to allow his mate to go off in search of food. Kūkini was Wisdom’s eight chick since 2006.

The newborn chick as yet to be named, NPR said, but joins that the USFWS calls “the world’s largest colony of albatross.” Midway Atoll is home to about 70% of the global Laysan albatross population, as well as nearly 40% of all  Black-footed albatross and a significant percentage of endangered Short-tailed albatross, the agency said. They arrive at the refuge to breed starting in late October, and fill up all of the park’s nesting spots by early December.

“Most seabirds, including albatross, return to the place they hatched to breed and raise their young,” Holly Richards of the USFWS explained in a recent Tumblr post. “Biologists call this type of behavior ‘nest site fidelity,’ and it makes preserving places with large colonies of birds, like Midway Atoll, critically important for the future survival of seabirds like Wisdom.”


Image credit: Naomi Blinick/USFWS Volunteer