Wisdom the Laysan albatross is making headlines again. We've watched in wonder ever since she hit 60 years old and was still successfully raising chicks. Last year she and her mate raised another chick to fledging, and this year their newest baby has just hatched!
“As the world’s oldest known bird in the wild, Wisdom is an iconic symbol of inspiration and hope for all seabird species.” said Dan Clark, refuge manager for Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, in a news release. “She provides to the world valuable information about the longevity of these beautiful creatures. In the case of Wisdom, she has logged literally millions of miles over the Pacific Ocean in her lifetime to find enough fish eggs and squid to feed herself and multiple chicks, allowing us the opportunity to measure the health of our oceans which sustain albatross as well as ourselves.”
Photo: A. Bell/USFWS
This isn't the only great news coming from Midway this nesting season. The short-tailed albatross pair, the first mated pair to nest on the atoll, have also hatched a chick, their third! They are one of the most endangered seabird species in the world, so researchers (and everyone else) is ecstatic at the news.
“A year ago last fall, the male returned and patiently waited but the female returned too late in the season and did not lay an egg,” noted refuge biologist Pete Leary in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release. “We were therefore thrilled when this past fall a remote camera technician sighted the female reuniting with the patiently waiting male that appeared the week before.”
Clark added, "We are always excited and guardedly optimistic that this chick will grow strong and healthy enough to fledge like the two previous chicks hatched on the refuge."
There are many challenges that stand in the way of a chick reaching fledging age. Both parents are necessary for feeding the chick, so their safety at sea is always a concern. Finding enough food, avoiding fishing lines and nets, and avoiding the frightening abundance of plastic pollution are all key. Unfortunately, many chicks die as parents mistake plastic objects for food, such as cigarette lighters, toothbrushes and fishing floats, and bring it back to feed to the chick along with the flying fish eggs that are a staple for the growing birds. Their stomachs fill with the indigestible objects and they end up starving to death.
Wisdom has likely raised somewhere around 35 chicks in her lifetime, and has racked up millions of miles of flying over her lifetime. Her ability to survive, and to bring so many chicks to fledging age, means she has truly earned her name. Understanding the challenges albatross face, it is even more amazing that Wisdom has raised so many chicks successfully, and that the short-tailed albatross pair has brought three chicks to fledging age since they began nesting on the atoll in 2010.
You can keep up on more good news by following the Friends of Midway Atoll NWR page on Facebook, where lots of updates and photos are posted. And now, to celebrate all this fantastic news, let's look at some adorable albatross chicks from Midway Atoll!
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