World’s oldest-known wild bird set to become a mother again at 68


Posted

December 09, 2018 13:42:54

She may be approaching 70, but Wisdom the Laysan albatross is not slowing down in her old age.

Key points:

  • The seabird has been known to researchers since 1956
  • Has reared as many as 36 chicks since biologists began observing her
  • Is currently incubating an egg with the help of her mate, who has been with her since at least 2006

Believed to be at least 68 years old, the seabird has returned home to her nesting ground in Midway Atoll, a tiny, isolated island in the Pacific Ocean, to lay yet another egg.

Biologists from the US Fish and Wildlife Service think Wisdom has reared as many as 36 chicks in her time.

Along with her committed partner Akeakamai, she looks set to send a 37th albatross out into the world in the coming months.

A dedicated mother

Albatrosses incubate their eggs for about two months, with the parents working around the clock to feed their chick for about five months after it hatches.

Mother and father take turns foraging for food at sea while the other keeps the chick safe in the nest.

As raising a chick is such a lengthy, exhausting process, many albatross couples take breaks after raising chicks, needing a rest after the intensive parenting effort.

However, Wisdom and Akeakamai have been raising chicks every year since 2006.

Laysan albatrosses begin looking for mates at age five and engage in courtship dances with dozens of choreographed movements to win over a lover.

Once they have found that mate, the pair are bonded for life.

Researchers are not sure if Widsom had other mates before Akeakamai, but they have observed a strong connection between the two.

Akeakamai, the name given to him by biologists, means “love of wisdom”.

‘It’s like another world’

Roughly 70 per cent of the world’s Laysan albatrosses rely on Midway Atoll as a safe nursey for rearing the next generation of birds.

Midway is comprised of two flat, sandy islands surrounded by a coral reef.

It is part of one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world, Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument.

“Midway during nesting season is an overwhelming experience,” Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Beth Flint said in a blog post.

“You are bombarded by the sounds and smells of 1.2 million albatross and over 3 million seabirds.

“Every square foot of land and much of the ground underfoot is occupied by a nesting bird. It’s like another world.”

Wisdom the seabird celebrity

Wisdom has been known to biologists since 1956, when she was tagged with a identifier leg band by Chandler Robbins.

Mr Robbins, who died in 2017, was reunited with Wisdom once again in 2002 when he was carrying out another survey near her nesting area.

She was tagged at a mass nesting ground on Midway Island, a US territory in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, which was used as a strategic military base.

Wisdom’s life has been well documented by researchers on the island, with the US Fish and Wildlife service sharing updates about her parenting pursuits on social media.

She spends 90 per cent of her life out of sea, resting on the waves to feast on squid and fish eggs.

But she returns to the place she was born each year to continue the circle of life, just like millions of other albatrosses.

Last year, researchers observed a chick Wisdom fledged in 2001 about a metre away from her nesting spot.

“Midway Atoll’s habitat doesn’t just contain millions of birds, it contains countless generations and families of albatrosses,” Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Kelly Goodale said.

“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.”

Topics:

animals,

human-interest,

environment,

hawaii



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