World’s oldest albatross gives birth—at age 63!

UPDATE: I mistakenly used last year’s article instead of this year’s. The fact is that, according to EarthSky, Wisdom produced another chick in early February of this year—at age 63! Here’s the photo of her with her offspring:

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She looks great for an old bird, doesn’t she?

h/t to Reader Grania, who corrected me and also put the link to this photo in the comments.

________

“Wisdom” is not only the oldest living wild bird known to humans, but according to the Washington Post, she just gave birth to a single chick that hatched Sunday on the island where she lives: the Midway Atoll.

Her age is known because birds on the island have been tagged repeatedly (the tags tend to fall off after a few decades, and Wisdom has been tagged six times, with each new tag replacing a still-extant old one).

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) is one amazing bird:

Wisdom has raised chicks five times since 2006, and as many as 35 in her lifetime. Just as astonishing, she has likely flown up to 3 million miles since she was first tagged at Midway Atoll at the end of the Hawaiian Island chain in 1956, according to scientists who have tracked her at the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s “4 to 6 trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again with plenty of miles to spare,” the USGS said in an enthusiastic announcement Tuesday.

“It blows us away that this is a 62-year-old bird and she keeps laying eggs and raising chicks,” said Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the Bird Banding Laboratory at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel.

Here she is, a cougar bird with her much younger mate:

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(From the Post): Wisdom (left) attempts to nudge her mate off the nest for her turn at incubating the couple’s egg. She’s 62; the male is presumed to be much younger. Photo by Pete Leary/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Although parrots have lived the longest in captivity, no wild bird is known to be older than Wisdom. That, of course, could simply reflect a paucity of tagged parrots—or other birds that might live a long time. But Wisdom beat out her closest rival a few years ago.

Albatrosses aren’t the world’s largest birds, or the oldest — parrots in captivity have lived to age 80, Peterjohn said. But they are easily the largest seabird, with wingspans as wide as eight feet, “like a sea gull on steroids,” Peterjohn said, dwarfing the average gray gulls that are known to roam beaches stealing french fries.

They’re the oldest known bird in the wild. Wisdom edged out the second oldest known albatross to reproduce, a 61-year-old named Grandma, of the Northern Royal species, Peterjohn said. But Grandma hasn’t been seen at her nesting ground at Taiaroa Head, New Zealand, in three years and is presumed dead.

Albatrosses mate for life, suggesting that Wisdom probably had to find a new, younger mate maybe twice down the line.

There are simply not enough good data to determine whether Wisdom is of extraordinary longevity or just average. As one researcher said, “half the birds could be 60 years old. . . These birds could be much older than we think.”

25 Comments

  1. alexandra moffat
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    her name ought to be Mrs Robinson

  2. uglicoyote
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Road.

  3. Posted March 4, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    She’s actually a pretty healthy looking bird. Here’s hoping she raises many more chicks!

    b&

  4. eric
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Wisdom has raised chicks five times since 2006, and as many as 35 in her lifetime.

    Okay, can I assume Albatross lay eggs once every two years or so then???

  5. Grania Spingies
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    There’s a picture of her with her chick over here: http://earthsky.org/earth/worlds-oldest-wild-bird-gives-birth-at-age-63

    • Posted March 4, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      Awww…cute!

      b&

    • davidintoronto
      Posted March 4, 2014 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      The WP article is dated Feb. 2013 (and the bird’s age is mentioned as 62). Your link is from this year and Mom is 63. Does this mean she produces a chick a year?

      • Grania Spingies
        Posted March 4, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        Certainly looks that way, but I don’t have any idea.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Oh that poor bird, squeezing out eggs when she should be enjoying her retirement! From her perspective, “Instead of the cross, the albatross about my neck was hung” might have a different meaning. :D

  7. Greg Esres
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    “as many as 35″

    That just highlights how whiny those Quiverfull apostates are….

  8. Posted March 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, Wisdom’s poor chicks may be ingesting lead based paint chippings from old U.S. Navy buildings. Thousands of Laysan albatross chicks die annually from neurological disorders. We need to clean it up!

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted March 5, 2014 at 1:07 am | Permalink

      Meanwhile adult albatrosses and petrels are killed in large numbers by long-line fishing fleets when the birds try to snatch bait of the hooks as they are set and end up drowning.

  9. nurnord
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    “Albatrosses aren’t the world’s largest birds, or the oldest — parrots in captivity have lived to age 80, Peterjohn said. But they are easily the largest seabird, with wingspans as wide as eight feet”

    – Note that this paragraph is NOT only referring to the laysan albatross (that averages a bit over 6.5 feet)and I can therefore let off the following highly pressurised steam…
    – Excuse me ?! 8 feet ?! You would be hard-pressed to find an adult wandering albatross (the bird with the longest wingspan) that has a span as LITTLE as 8 feet ! The average is about 10 feet and over 12 feet has been recorded !

  10. Steve Gerrard
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    That’s some serious frequent flyer miles Wisdom has racked up.

  11. Diane G.
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    //

  12. Posted March 4, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    What flavor is it?

    • Posted March 4, 2014 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      She’s flavored Migratory Bird Species Act, maybe with a side serving of Endangered Species Act. Can you afford $15,000 and six months in prison, maybe much more?

      b&

    • Posted March 5, 2014 at 1:04 am | Permalink

      It’s a BIRD, isn’t it? It’s a bloody seabird; it’s not any bloody flavor… ALBATROSS…

      • TJR
        Posted March 5, 2014 at 5:40 am | Permalink

        I’m glad someone else said this, so I didn’t have to. I wouldn’t want people thinking I’m some sort of compulsive Pavlovian Python-quoter or something.

        • TJR
          Posted March 5, 2014 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          Hmm, there was supposed to be a feeble joke after that, but it didn’t come out.

          Right, I’m off to get a choc-ice. With wafers.

        • Posted March 5, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          It’s all in a day’s work for Confuse-a-Cat.

  13. Hempenstein
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    If she was first banded in 1956, how could they tell that she was ~5 at the time?

    • Filipe
      Posted March 5, 2014 at 12:03 am | Permalink

      They reach maturity at about that age.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 5, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      I was going to suggest her rings. Like a tree. Okay that joke was funnier in my head!

  14. James O'Neill
    Posted March 9, 2014 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    While you say that the Albatross is the longest recorded living wild bird, another bird springs to mind, being the kakapo. They have been known to be older than 100 and have an estimated average natural lifespan of 90 years. Are they not counted as wild because of their conservation status and close monitoring?


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