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64-year-old Laysan Albatross Returns, Spotted With Mate

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The world’s oldest known banded bird in the wild, a Laysan albatross named Wisdom, was sighted on Nov. 19 on Midway Atoll, according to an announcement made today by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

(*VIDEO: Wisdom Incubates Egg – Dec. 8, 2014 at Midway Atoll.  NWR Video by Dan Clark/USFWS)

Wisdom (left) and her mate (right) on Nov. 21, 2015. Photo by: Kiah Walker/USFWS

Wisdom (left) and her mate (right) on Nov. 21, 2015. Photo by: Kiah Walker/USFWS

Wisdom was reportedly spotted with her mate, among the world’s largest nesting albatross colony at the National Wildlife Refuge within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.


“In the face of dramatic seabird population decreases worldwide –70% drop since the 1950’s when Wisdom was first banded–Wisdom has become a symbol of hope and inspiration,” said Refuge Manager, Dan Clark in an agency press release.

“We are a part of the fate of Wisdom and it is gratifying to see her return because of the decades of hard work conducted to manage and protect albatross nesting habitat,” said Clark.

Deputy Refuge Manager, Bret Wolfe also commented saying, “Wisdom left soon after mating but we expect her back any day now to lay her egg.”


He continued saying, “It is very humbling to think that she has been visiting Midway for at least 64 years. Navy sailors and their families likely walked by her not knowing she could possibly be rearing a chick over 50 years later. She represents a connection to Midway’s past as well as embodying our hope for the future.”

Wisdom Backstory:

Wisdom was first banded in 1956. Because Laysan albatross do not return to breed until they are at least five years old, the USFWS estimates that Wisdom is at least 64 years old, but she could be older.


The agency notes that many birds lose their bands before they can be replaced. Wisdom’s bands, however, were continuously replaced and because of meticulous record keeping associated with bird banding, the agency can verify she is the same bird first banded by noted author and Service ornithologist, Chandler Robbins.

According to USFWS, biologists may find even older birds as old worn bands continue to be routinely replaced.

Although Laysan albatrosses typically mate for life, Wisdom has likely had more than one mate and has raised as many as 36 chicks, according to the agency.

“Laying only one egg per year, a breeding albatross and their mate will spend approximately six months rearing and feeding their young,” according to the USFWS.  “When not tending to their chicks, albatross forage hundreds of miles out at sea periodically returning with meals of squid or flying fish eggs. Wisdom has likely clocked over six million ocean miles of flight time,” the agency states.


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