Wisdom the Laysan albatross is the oldest wild bird known to be alive on the planet but if that weren't impressive enough, she is also still successfully raising chicks. She has returned to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in Hawaii again this year, the primary nesting ground for Laysan albatross. At the estimated age of 66, she was spotted incubating an egg at the same spot she and her mate use each year.
“I find it impressive that not only has Wisdom returned for over six decades as the oldest living, breeding bird in the wild, but also that biologists here on Midway have been keeping records that have allowed us to keep track of her over the years,” said Charlie Pelizza, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Project Leader for Midway Atoll Refuge and Memorial.
Wisdom was first banded in 1956. Because Layan albatross don't breed until they are at least 5 years old and Wisdom was breeding when she was tagged, researchers estimated her age to be 66 years old, or maybe even older, according to the USFWS Pacific Region. She has raised at least nine chicks since 2006 and traveled an estimated 3 million miles in her lifetime.
Wisdom is the oldest breeding bird in the wild, and is also the oldest banded bird.
About 70 percent of this species' population has disappeared in the last few decades, so Wisdom's success is particularly notable. She is still managing to dodge the many dangers of the Pacific Ocean — particularly the fishing gear and stray plastics that tend to be most deadly — so she is a symbol of hope for the survival of the species as a whole.
"Millions of seabirds depend on the Refuge and Memorial as a safe place to rest and raise their young. But Wisdom is our oldest resident — she has returned home to Midway Atoll for over six decades, raising numerous chicks to successfully fledge,” said Bob Peyton, former project leader for Midway Atoll Refuge and Memorial. “Thanks to the hard work of our biologists and volunteers, we have been able to keep records that have allowed us to keep track of her and her chicks over the years.”
Editor's note: This story was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated with new information.