Posts Tagged ‘Midway Atoll’

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Wisdom and her chick, Kukini.

Wisdom is a female Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) that has become pretty famous, and rightly so. As the species specific portion of her scientific name suggests, she is immutable, unchanging, indelible, persistent. Wisdom is the oldest known wild bird in the world! She is 68 years old!

And at 68 years of age, she is a mom once again! Her 31st chick, named Kukini, has just recently hatched on Midway atoll.

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Wisdom and her mate Akeakamai

Wisdom has returned again and again to the tinny island named Midway Atoll northwest of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. An extensive colony of Laysan Albatross nest on Midway, and Wisdom has joined that colony repeatedly over the years. She has had several mates over the course of those years, and her current partner in success is an albatross named Akeakamai.

Both Wisdom’s age, and her reproductive success are really incredible. Banded as an adult bird in the 1950s by the late great Chan Robbins who was a researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey, she has exceeded the lifespan of all other known wild birds. Birds do not age, physically, in the same way that humans do, so Wisdom looks just about exactly the same now as she did 50 years ago. And that she is still reproducing is a testament to how amazing of avian biology is. Another way birds and human age differently is that birds do not loose the ability to reproduce as they age. A human in their 60s is generally going to be past their reproductive age, however the reproductive abilities of albatross in their 60s seem to be unphased.

Albatross pairs only have one egg each year, and individuals often skip years and don’t breed at all. Once hatched, the young birds take longer and average for a bird to reach maturity and start breeding themselves. The low reproductive rates of all the albatross species means that each young bird is a significant contribution to the future of the species. Wisdom is definitely doing her part!

So, check in with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the agency that is monitoring the albatross populations on Midway Atoll, and see how the amazing Wisdom is doing this year!



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