Wisdom, a wild Laysan albatross is known as the oldest bird on record, has just welcomed its newest chick at 70 years old.


Wisdom, a wild Laysan albatross is known as the oldest bird on record, has just welcomed its newest chick at 70 years old.

A large flock of wild Laysan albatrosses – about 2.5 million of them or 99.7 percent of their known population – live in the Hawaiian islands’ northwestern part. Wisdom, the longest-living member of the flock, has previously stunned birdwatchers, fans, and enthusiasts alike, as she raised her brood at 67 years old. Now, surpassing her previous record, she gave birth to a chick at 70 years old, creating a brood of 30 to 36 children throughout her seven-decade existence.

Following Wisdom for Seven Decades

The Laysan albatross, as a species, was first described by Lionel Walter Rothschild back in 1893, getting its common name from the Laysan Island – a small atoll located northwest of Honolulu, Hawaii.

Wisdom was first recorded on the Midway Atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, December 10, 1956 – the banding done by American biologist and ornithologist Chandler Seymour Robbins. Robbins himself rediscovered wisdom 46 years later in 2002. A study of her flock led scientists to believe that the great bird returned to the Midway Atoll’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to nest and raise offspring with her long-time mate Akeakamai, whose name is the Hawaiian for “lover of Wisdom,” who had paired with Wisdom at least since 2012 when he was first banded himself.

“At least 70 years old, we believe Wisdom has had other mates,” said Dr. Beth Flint, a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in a statement from the agency. She adds that while the albatross mates for life, they might seek out new partners as needed – such as when they outlive their original partner, as might be the case with Wisdom.

Laysan albatrosses – locally known among Hawaiians as mōlī – can live for as much as fifty years in the wild. Wisdom has surpassed the common lifespan by two decades, even surviving natural environmental events. In 2011, Wisdom and her chick back then survived a tsunami that hit the Midway Atoll. This same surviving chick was later observed seven years later, in 2018, a few feet away from Wisdom’s own nest – leading the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Pacific Islands to believe that Laysan albatrosses sport a family reunion tendency of some sorts.

Never Too Old For a New Child

As for the chick hatched by the septuagenarian Wisdom, it was laid on February 1. However, these baby albatrosses still need around two more months to incubate, after which they begin to break out of their shells through a temporary egg tooth in a process called pipping and zipping – named as such for the sound made by the chicks in the egg, and the zipping through the shell with their temporary tool. In some cases, the parent albatross helps the chick break through its shells.

“Each year that Wisdom returns, we learn more about how long seabirds can live and raise chicks,” Flint added. She adds that the return of Wisdom “not only inspires bird lovers everywhere” but also helps them to understand better how to protect these mōlī from surviving into the future.

Originally published at The Science Times