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.
In December, Wisdom returned to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial and laid an egg. Currently, her partner Akeakamai and she alternate incubating the egg. At 67 years old, that's quite an achievement for Wisdom! Akeakamai and she fly thousands of miles every year to return to their same nesting area in Midway.
“Wisdom continues to inspire people around the world. She has returned home to Midway Atoll for
over six decades and raised at least 30 to 35 chicks,” Bob Peyton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) project leader for Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Memorial, said in a February 2017 news release. “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.”
It takes nearly seven months to incubate the egg and raise a chick to fledge, according to FWS. During that time, Wisdom and Akeakamai take turns incubating the egg or caring for the chick while the other goes out to find food. Seabirds, and especially the albatross, "exhibit high nest site fidelity, returning to the same nesting site each year, and relying on protected nesting sites like the Refuge and Memorial to raise their young," according to the FWS.
Both parents are necessary for feeding the chick, so their safety while foraging for food is always a concern. (Photo: USFWS - Pacific Region/flickr)
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 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.
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!
Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information since it was originally published in February 2014.