In Hawaii, the oldest wild bird in the world laid an egg. She is at least 68 years old

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She outlived the scientist who first ringed her in the mid-50s.

Wisdom and her egg / Photo by USFWS

Scientists at the National Reserve on Midway Island reported that an albatross female named Wisdom returned to its former nesting place and laid an egg. She was first identified as an adult in 1956, and although she is at least 68 years old, she still gives offspring.

Wisdom and her regular partner Akeakamai return to the same section of Midway Atoll every year. They have been together since 2006 and once a season the female lays an egg, which they hatch in turn.

In 1956, Wisdom was ringed by a biologist named Chandler Robbins. It was his first season on the atoll, at that time the strategic outpost of the United States, and the bird did not have a name–it was one of the hundreds of thousands of its tribesmen returning to Midway, and one of 8.4 thousand albatros ringed that year. 46 years later, Robbins examined the same nesting site and saw a number that he had put down almost half a century ago.

Robbins banding an albatross at Midway Island in 1966. Photo credit: USFFWS

Scientists do not rule out that Wisdom is not really the oldest wild bird–the fact is that aluminum rings that are put on the legs of albatrosses can become unusable in about 20 years due to sea water and sand. But they are sure that Wisdom is the same bird that Robbins ringed, as in her group the shabby rings were constantly replaced with new ones.

In 2017, not far from the Wisdom’s current nest, researchers noticed her chick hatched in 2001–this was the first documented case of its kind.

Midway Atoll’s habitat doesn’t just contain millions of birds, it contains countless generations and families of albatrosses. If you can imagine when Wisdom returns home she is likely surrounded by what were once her chicks and potentially their chicks. What a family reunion!”
Kelly Goodale
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Biologist

Biologists on Midway band one of Wisdom’s chicks. Photo credit: USFWS

Studies of the albatrosses on Midway help ornithologists and biologists to understand the complex life cycles and migration patterns of birds around the world. This information helps researchers make decisions that ensure that seabirds have future habitats and resources necessary for survival.


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