Wisdom comes with age, goes the age-old saying. And Wisdom, the Laysan albatross, proves it. She is 70 years old, lives in the wild, and is full of surprises.
First tagged in 1956, Wisdom has since become very special to bird-lovers everywhere. Her long life has reshaped our knowledge of albatross and their behavior. Over the years, she has outlived mates and raised nearly 36 chicks.
On February 1, Wisdom and her current mate welcomed their newest chick at the world’s largest albatross colony in Midway Atoll, Hawaii.
Known for their unusually long wing-spans, albatross are primarily seabirds that spend a good part of their life gliding over the water.
While the main body of the albatross is quite compact, their wings can measure 3.5 meters or 11 feet from tip to tip, making them extraordinarily efficient while flying. In fact, albatross can cover long distances without flapping their wings even once. Not surprisingly, they need more energy to take off or land, and not for actually flying.
Most of their life is spent on the sea in search of food like fish, squid, crabs, and other creatures. They can follow ships for days together, feasting on waste thrown overboard. Many sailors consider them as good omens and watch out for them, almost like pets.
Albatross return to land only to breed and tend to prefer the same location every time. Typically, these birds mate for life and hatch one egg every year (or every few years). Both the male and the female take turns sitting on their nests, and caring for their chick once the egg hatches.
Wisdom is a Laysan albatross, a species found in the North Pacific Ocean. Many of these birds consider the Hawaiian archipelago their home and return to the northern atolls to breed.
In 1956, Dr.Chandler Robbins, a bird biologist, was busy tagging birds at Midway Atoll. Forty-six years later, in 2002, he spotted a bird with a familiar tag in the same region.
In 2006, volunteers gave this bird a new red band, Z333, as well as an apt name – Wisdom. Researchers believe that Wisdom has been coming back to the same region to nest for the last 60 years. Since albatross need to be five years old before they can lay eggs, they estimate Wisdom was at least five when first tagged in 1956. That makes her 70 years old or even more now!
Today, Wisdom is the oldest known wild bird in the world. She has forced scientists to re-evaluate the expected lifespans of albatross species. Her age is also a plus when it comes to experience in looking after new chicks. Her current mate has been named Akeakamai by conservationists
Bird lovers around the world have been delighted to see photographs of Wisdom and Akeakamai jointly caring for their baby!
Sources: BBC, Smithsonian, National Geographic, NPR