60 Year Old Laysan Albatross is new Mother

March 9, 2011, 7:45 AM HST · Updated March 9, 8:01 AM
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By Wendy Osher

A Laysan albatross named Wisdom, is at least 60 years old and was spotted in February 2011 raising a chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Islands. Photo courtesy John Klavitter, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The oldest known wild bird in the U.S., is a new mother at the age of 60. The Laysan albatross named Wisdom was spotted by biologists at Midway Atoll a few weeks ago with a chick in tow. The observation was made by John Klavitter, the deputy manager of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, and biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, the bird has worn out 5 bird bands since she was first tracked in 1956. At that time, she was 5 years old and was incubating an egg.

Scientists say Widsom has likely raised at least 30-35 chicks during her breeding life. Albatross lay only one egg a year and take much of a year to incubate and raise their young. Albatross are known to mate for life, with both parents raising the young. It is not known if the same the same partner was involved in the rearing of Widsom’s chicks.

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“To know that she can still successfully raise young at age 60-plus, that is beyond words,” said Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program. “While the process of banding a bird has not changed greatly during the past century, the information provided by birds marked with a simple numbered metal band has transformed our knowledge of birds,” said Peterjohn.

Scientists say the bird has likely logged 50,000 miles per year, or 2 to 3 million miles since first being banded. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Laysan albatross spend their first 3-5 years after fledging at sea, never touching land. During the non-breeding parts of the year, scientists say albatross are in constant flight as well. The birds return to breed in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but feed as far away as the coast of western North America and the Gulf of Alaska.

(Supporting information courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

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