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A 62 year-old wild albatross has hatched a healthy chick — for the 35th time

Illustration for article titled A 62 year-old wild albatross has hatched a healthy chick — for the 35th time

Tracked by scientists since 1956, a Laysan albatross dubbed "Widsom" has hatched a healthy chick at the tender age of 62. The (apparently) elderly bird has now successfully given birth for the sixth consecutive year and is assumed to have parented at least 35 chicks over the course of her preternaturally long lifetime. And what might be even more impressive is the fact that Wisdom has flown an awe inspiring three million miles (4.8 million kilometers) since she was first branded.


The hatching was documented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Pete Leary who is working at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Over the course of her life, Wisdom has worn out five bird bands since being tagged by the U.S. Geological Survey's Chandler Robbins in 1956.

Wildlife Extra reports:

Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD, 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.

"As Wisdom rewrites the record books, she provides new insights into the remarkable biology of seabirds," Peterjohn said. "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 eligible for Medicare in a couple years yet she is still regularly raising young and annually circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean. Simply incredible."


Incredible, indeed. Wisdom has logged an average of 50,000 miles per year since becoming an adult — which adds up to at least two to three million miles. Or, as Wildlife Extra calculates, "that's 4 to 6 trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again with plenty of miles to spare."


Image: John Klavitter.

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"Yes, Mother?"

"Today, you have grown to be a mature bird and with that comes your birthright and your responsibility"

"What is it Mother?"

"This is an ankle tag. You must wear it now until your first born daughter comes of age. Protect it with your life. This has been passed down for generations and will continue for many more."