Pacific Refugee: Wisdom the albatross, the world’s oldest-known breeding bird in the wild, has laid an egg at 66 years of age after returning to a wildlife refuge in the Pacific Ocean, US wildlife officials have said.
Photos of the large seabird incubating her egg between her webbed feet at the Midway Atoll national wildlife refuge, the world’s largest albatross colony, were posted on Twitter by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
While it was not known when she laid her egg – her 41st – it was likely to have been in the past few days, the agency said.
Wisdom’s journey back to motherhood, at 66 years of age or possibly older, has amazed staff at the refuge.
Laysan albatrosses, which are monogamous, typically live for 12 to 40 years. They spend the vast majority of their lives in the air, flying thousands of miles each year in search of food across vast tracts of the north Pacific Ocean.
“I find it impressive that not only has Wisdom returned for over six decades as the oldest living, breeding bird in the wild, but also that biologists here on Midway have been keeping records that have allowed us to keep track of her over the years,” Charlie Pelizza of the Midway Atoll refuge wrote on the agency’s Tumblr page.
“When I made it to lunch, I knew something was up. The staff was abuzz with the news that Wisdom was back and incubating,” he wrote.
The biologist Chandler Robbins, now 98, first placed an aluminium band around the albatross’s ankle at the Pacific Ocean atoll in 1956. Forty-six years later, Robbins spotted
Wisdom among thousands of birds near the same nesting area and affixed a sturdier band to her ankle.
Wisdom has fledged at least nine chicks since 2006, and travelled roughly 3m miles in her lifetime. Her latest chick, Kukini, hatched in February.
Wildlife officials said Wisdom would be likely to incubate her egg for a number of days until her mate, Akeakamai – a Hawaiian word that means a love of wisdom – returned to take over the incubation and she ventured to sea to eat.