World's Oldest Known Wild Bird Hatches Another Chick
(Pete Leary/USFWS Photo)
Permitted use provided by: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
A Laysan albatross known as
“Wisdom” – believed to be at least 62 years old – has hatched a chick on Midway
Atoll National Wildlife Refuge for the sixth consecutive year.
Early Sunday morning, February 3,
2013, the chick was observed pecking its way into the world by U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service biologist Pete Leary, who said the chick appears healthy.
Wisdom was first banded in 1956, when she was incubating an egg in the same
area of the refuge. She was at least five years old at the time.
“Everyone continues to
be inspired by Wisdom as a symbol of hope for her species,” said Doug
Staller, the Fish and Wildlife Service Superintendent for the Papahānaumokuākea
Marine National Monument (Monument), which includes Midway Atoll NWR.
Staff and volunteers stationed on
Midway are responsible for monitoring the health of the beautiful seabirds that
arrive every year by the hundreds of thousands to nest. Upon the
seabirds’ arrival, field staff monitor them and gather information for
one of the longest and oldest continuous survey data sets for tropical seabirds
in the world.
Wisdom has worn out five bird bands since
she was first banded by U.S. Geological Survey scientist Chandler Robbins in
1956. Robbins estimated Wisdom to be at least 5 years old at the time, since
this is the earliest age at which these birds breed. Typically, they breed at 8
or 9 years of age after a very involved courtship lasting over several years so
Wisdom could be even older than 62.
“As Wisdom rewrites the record
books, she provides new insights into the remarkable biology of seabirds,” said
Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at the USGS
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD. “It is beyond words to
describe the amazing accomplishments of this wonderful bird and how she
demonstrates the value of bird banding to better understand the world around us.
If she were human, she would be elible for Medicare in a couple years yet she
is still regularly raising young and annually circumnavigating the Pacific
Ocean. Simply incredible.”
Peterjohn said Wisdom has likely raised at least 30 to 35 chicks during her
breeding life, though the number may well be higher because experienced parents
tend to be better parents than younger breeders. Albatross lay only one egg a
year, but it takes much of a year to incubate and raise the chick. After
consecutive years in which they have successfully raised and fledged a chick,
the parents may take the occasional next year off from parenting. Wisdom is
known to have nested in 2006 and then every year since 2008.
Sue Schulmeister, Manager of the
Midway Atoll NWR, said, “Wisdom is one is one of those incredible seabirds that
has provided the world valuable information about the longevity of these
beautiful creatures and reinforces the importance of breeding adults in the
population. This information helps us measure the health of our oceans that
Almost as amazing as being a parent
at 62 is the number of miles Wisdom has likely logged – about 50,000 miles a
year as an adult – which means that Wisdom has flown at least two million to
three million miles since she was first banded. Or, to put it another way,
that’s four to six trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again, with plenty
of miles to spare.
About Albatross - Albatross are legendary birds for many
reasons – in Samuel Coleridge’s poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a
sailor has to wear an albatross around his neck as punishment for killing the
bird. According to seafaring legends, albatross are the souls of lost sailors
and should not be killed. However, as reported by James Cook, sailors regularly
killed and ate albatross.
Albatross are remarkable fliers who
travel thousands of miles on wind currents without ever flapping their wings.
They do this by angling their 6-foot wings to adjust for wind currents and
varying air speeds above the water.
Nineteen of 21 species of albatross
are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature. Present threats to the birds include lead poisoning of
chicks on Midway from lead paint used in previous decades; longline fishing,
where the birds are inadvertently hooked and drowned, though conservation
groups have banded with fishermen and dramatically lowered the number of deaths
from this cause; and pollution, especially from garbage floating on the ocean.
The birds ingest large amounts of
marine debris – by some estimates 5 tons of plastic are unknowingly fed to
albatross chicks each year by their parents. Although the plastic may not kill
the chicks directly, it reduces their food intake, which leads to dehydration
and most likely lessens their chance of survival. In addition, albatross are
threatened by invasive species such as rats and wild cats, which prey on
chicks, nesting adults and eggs. Albatross evolved on islands where land
mammals were absent, so have no defenses against them.
Contact: Ann Bell,
Contact: Catherine Puckett, 352-377-2469, firstname.lastname@example.org
Images of Wisdom can be found HERE