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World’s Oldest Wild Bird Has Baby at 66

Almost every year for six decades, Wisdom the albatross has laid an egg at her home in the Midway Atoll. On February 16, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that Wisdom just hatched another chick.


Wisdom’s fertility is significant for two reasons, explains Deisha Norwood, deputy refuge manager at the U.S. Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

As the oldest known wild bird, Wisdom is giving scientists valuable insights into reproduction in older animals. And since Laysan albatross only lay at most one egg per year, even a single hatchling goes toward preserving the species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Laysan as near threatened with extinction.

“It’s always very exciting for Wisdom to have another chick,” Norwood says. “It’s remarkable for her to be producing young at her age, and she seems to be really good at it.” (Related: “Wisdom the Albatross and Other Shockingly Old Moms.”)


On December 10, 1956, biologist Chandler Robbins banded an ordinary-looking Laysan albatross in what’s now the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The bird wasn’t seen until 46 years later, in 2002, when Robbins happened to recapture the bird again.

Her seemingly advanced age and good health earned her the name Wisdom. (Like Wisdom, Robbins has stayed active into his old age—now 98, he still works with birds at Maryland’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.)

Once an albatross reaches adulthood, it’s hard to determine exactly how old they are. Robbins knew that Wisdom was a fully mature adult in 1956—which means she’s at least 66 years old today.

Like all albatrosses, Wisdom and her mate, Akeakamai, return to the same spot every year to renew their bond. It’s likely the same place where Wisdom herself hatched many decades ago. (See National Geographic’s pictures of animal mothers and babies.)

Albatross mate for life, although they will find a new partner if one dies—Wisdom has outlived several males. Since 2006, Wisdom and Akeakamai have raised several chicks and Wisdom is believed to have raised anywhere from 30 to 35 chicks over her lifetime.

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