bird with chick
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
April 20, 2024 ·  4 min read

World’s oldest known wild bird has another chick at age of 70

Wisdom, the Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird. And at age 70, she hatched a healthy chick on February 1 of this year. Laysan albatrosses tend to only live for 12–40 years, but researchers found Wisdom in 1956, and she has been alive and kicking ever since. She lives in the wildlife refuge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services by the Pacific Ocean. 

The father of the new chick is Akeakamai, who Wisdom has mated with since 2012. Albatrosses tend to mate for life, but Wisdom has outlived her previous partners. Not only that, she has outlived Chandler Robbins, the biologist who had banded her in the 50s. And she has become a mom in her old age. 

The Oldest Wild Birds Hatches Another Chick 

Despite the egg hatching in February, the USFWS reported it this past week.  

Wisdom laid her egg sometime during the last few days of November,” the organization wrote in its statement. Soon after, Wisdom returned to sea to forage and her mate Akeakamai took over incubation duties. Albatross parents share incubation duties and once the chick hatches, share feeding duties.” 

As the oldest wild bird known to researchers, Wisdom bore at least 30–36 babies in her life. Keep in mind that albatrosses hatch only one egg every couple of years. 

The Midway Atoll wildlife refuge, what Wisdom calls home, contains the largest community of albatrosses across the globe. [1] 

Dangers to the Albatross Population

Sean Dooley, national public affairs manager for BirdLife Australia, was enthusiastic about Wisdom’s newest chick’s birth. 

Because she only nests every two years, the international bird community looks forward to seeing if she’s been able to come back and nest,” he said. “The odds are stacked against them so much; whenever it happens, it’s always a cause for celebration.” 

According to Dooley, the albatross population has taken a major hit in recent years. These wild birds are slow breeders, and fishing industries are reducing their already small numbers. Climate change is another detriment to this species. 

The changes in water temperate and the changes in currents in water and winds means … the extent they have to fly to find food increases as their prey species seek out colder water. It’s a big looming threat that sea birds are facing, albatross in particular.” 

Additionally, albatrosses on the Midway are being killed by plastic pollution [2] and invading house mice. [3] 

Read: Blue dogs seen roaming near abandoned Russian chemical factory

Hatching a Chick at 70 

As it so happens, many wild animals can reproduce into their old age. “To humans, it seems remarkable but we’re still determining whether this is par for the course for these magnificent birds,” said Dooley. “In the bird world the other famously long-lived birds are the parrots, especially cockatoos. 

In captivity, there have been cockatoos getting on towards 100. Eighty or 90 years have been recorded of cockatoos in captivity. Even in the wild, they’d be expected to have a natural lifespan of at least 30 to 40 years old, if not older. 

“Australian birds are thought to be generally more longer-lived compared to northern hemisphere counterparts because they have to deal with boom-and-bust conditions. For birds, if they’re short-lived, there’s a risk there wouldn’t be a good boom time when they can breed as adults.” [4] 

Interestingly, Wisdom has contributed to some of the oldest studies about her species and about how they live and raise their young. Even after 70 years, she continues to teach biologists about her kind.  

To feed her babies, the oldest wild bird and her mate fly about 1,000 miles foraging for food over the ocean. Then, they return to the nest to regurgitate the food for the baby so it could be strong enough when summer comes.

“Her return not only inspires bird lovers everywhere but helps us better understand how we can protect these graceful seabirds and the habitat they need to survive into the future,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Beth Flint.  

Additionally, Wisdom found a unique set of skills that helped contribute to her long life. “I think that over the years, she’s definitely learned to avoid predators out in the ocean, and she’s learned to forage very efficiently and also maybe avoid plastic these days and potentially fishing vessels,” Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge biologist John Klavitter. [5] 

Keep Reading: A Cephalopod Has Passed a Cognitive Test Designed For Human Children

Sources

  1. “World’s oldest known wild bird has another chick at age of 70.” BBC. March 6, 2021 
  2. “World’s Oldest Known Bird Gives Birth to New Chick on Midway Atoll.” Eco Watch. Olivia Rosane. March 5, 2021  
  3. “Oldest Known Wild Bird Hatches Chick at Age 70.” Smithsonian Mag. Alex Fox. February 26, 2021. 
  4. “Wisdom the albatross, the world’s oldest known wild bird, has another chick at age 70.” The Guardian. Natasha May. March 5, 2021 
  5. Wisdom The Albatross, Now 70, Hatches Yet Another Chick.” NPR. Bill Chappell. March 5, 2021