World’s Oldest Known Wild Bird, Wisdom the Albatross, Is a Mother Again

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The world's oldest known wild bird, a Laysan albatross named Wisdom, just added a new member to her family. At age 65, that's more than a little impressive.

The chick was born at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and was first seen emerging from its shell on February 1. Staff named the chick Kūkini—the Hawaiian word for messenger—a few days later, and announced the new chick on February 8.

Laysan albatrosses spend much of the year at sea, coasting hundreds of miles each day over the Pacific Ocean. Each mating season, the birds return to the remote atoll, which is known in Hawaiian as Pihemanu, or “loud bird noises” for the millions of seabirds that nest there. Female albatrosses lay a single egg per season, but that single egg is a huge commitment. Incubation alone lasts 130 days, and raising the chick to flight readiness can take another few months.

An ornithologist working with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) first banded Wisdom in 1956, when she was about five years old. In the last six decades, Wisdom has raised as many as 40 chicks. Most albatrosses mate for life, but Wisdom has likely outlived her first mate and has found another. Monument staff are currently holding a contest to name her mate, who is unofficially known as "Goo" or "Gooo," a reference to his band number of 6,000, according to NPR.

“In the face of dramatic seabird population decreases worldwide—a 70 percent drop since the 1950s when Wisdom was first banded—Wisdom has become a symbol of hope and inspiration,” refuge manager Dan Clark said in an earlier press releaseWildlife officials say Wisdom is also breaking longevity records for previously known banded birds by "at least a decade."

According to a press release from the monument, Wisdom’s voyages across the ocean and back since she was first tagged could add up to three million miles total—that's six trips to the Moon and back again.