Posts Tagged ‘Seabirds’

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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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Adult Brown Booby

Scientists have been making predictions about the effects of climate change for the past couple of decades. One such prediction is that as the earth’s climate becomes warmer the geographic range of species will shift towards the poles and up-slope. This will occur because species will be moving to try to find areas that have the environmental conditions they have evolved to thrive in. So, a species that evolved in a temperate region such as California will be used to the temperatures found in California. As the earth warms, California will warm and the species that are adapted to life here will have move north to Oregon, Washington, or even farther north to find the temperatures they can tolerate.

BRBO - Ventura County Star 2

Adult Brown Boobies in flight.

Yet another example of these predictions coming true has been found on the Channel Islands of the southern California coast. Sutil Island is a small, rocky formation a little to the southwest of Santa Barbara Island and is part of the Channel Islands National Park. This year it has received a new visitor. About 100 Brown Boobies (Sula leucogaster) were observed by Channel Island biologists roosting on the island. Especially noteworthy was that among those 100 or birds were 4 nests! Brown Boobies are generally thought of as a tropical species, but they have been expanding their range north since the 1990s, and this is the first time they have nested on the Channel Islands. There is little doubt but that they will return next year, and likely in greater numbers.

This is what climate change looks like.

BRBO - Ventura County Star

A Brown Booby preening on Sutil Island.


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