Wisdom incubates her egg

Wisdom incubates her egg Credit: Madalyn Riley/USFWS Taken December 4, 2018 (Via)

 

A Laysan albatross named "Wisdom" arrived at her nesting site on November 29 and laid an egg on December 5. What is unusual about that is that Wisdom is 68 years old. In human years, not dog years.

Wisdom is the oldest known living wild bird. She's been tracked by the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service (USFWS) since 1956 when ornithologist Chandler Robbins tagged her at the Midway Atoll, estimating that she was about five or six years old at that time. That means that she is now 68 years old and the oldest bird known to have laid an egg this late in her life.  And she's had 36 chicks!

 

Hawaian Islands

Part of the Hawaiin Islands, Midway Atoll is up on the left of this map - approximately half-way between North America and Asia (via)

 

Wisdom's life span is exceptional even for her species, as Laysan albatross usually live for 20 to 40 years, and she's broken that record by a couple of decades. Additionally, Laysan albatross usually take a year off in between mating, and 2018 should have been an off year for Wisdom, as she just gave birth last year. Below, Wisdom nuzzles her previous chick hatched only this past February, 2018.

 

Wisdom at 60

Wisdom with her newborn chick in February 2018 (via)

 

Her current egg, now just a few days old, is Wisdom's thirty-sixth offspring. Wisdom and her mate since 2006, Akeakamai, are taking turns covering the egg while the other partner hunts for food. The incubation period is 62 to 66 days, but the parents will stay with the chick about five-and-a-half months until the fledgling can feed and fly on its own. After that, the adult birds are found "flying or resting on the ocean near the coast of Russia or along Alaska's Bering Sea." (via)

Laysan albatross are one of about 20 species of wild bird that breed and lay eggs on the Atoll, but there are more than 3 million birds that come to the Atoll every year; 1.2 million of them are Laysan albatross.

 

Laysan Albatross cover the Midway Atoll

Laysan albatross chicks cover the Atoll (via)

 

This species is listed as 'near threatened' because of the likelihood of further rising of the oceans and pollution of the seas. Although their natural predators would be whales, they are not water birds, and their biggest predator threats are currently animals brought into the island like dogs, cats, and mice.

 

If you have a chance, you should watch this partial YouTube video of the elaborate mating dance of the beautiful Laysan albatross. It is supremely choreographed!

 

 

Here's to Wisdom! She's doing something right....

 

sources: U.S. Fish And Wildlife Services, Gizmodo  via Smithsonian.com

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