The oldest known banded bird in existence was sighted earlier this month according to an announcement from the US Department of Interior this afternoon. Estimated to be at least 64 years old, the bird named Wisdom was first banded in 1956.
“This 64-year-old bird returned to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge on November 19, 2015, after a year at sea,” a release from the Dept. of Interior stated. “A few days later, she was observed with her mate. Wisdom departed soon after mating but refuge workers expect her back any day to lay her egg.”
Wisdom is a Laysan albatross and do not breed until they are at least five years old. This is why she is estimated to be least 64 years old, but she could be older.
“Although Laysan albatrosses typically mate for life, Wisdom has likely had more than one mate and has raised as many as 36 chicks,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service affirmed. “Laying only one egg per year, a breeding albatross will spend a tiring 130 days (approximately) incubating and raising a chick. When not tending to their chicks, albatross forage hundreds of miles out at sea periodically returning with meals of squid or flying fish eggs. Wisdom has likely clocked over six million ocean miles of flight time.”
Wisdom was seen at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, “home to the largest albatross colony in the world and 70 percent of the world’s Laysan albatross population. Midway Atoll is one of more than 560 wildlife refuges that make up the National Wildlife Refuge System. National wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species and more than 1,000 species of fish.”
Officials from the Hawaii US Fish and Wildlife said Wisdom was sighted at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge near the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
“In the face of dramatic seabird population decreases worldwide –70% drop since the 1950’s when Wisdom was first banded–Wisdom has become a symbol of hope and inspiration,” said Refuge Manager, Dan Clark. “We are a part of the fate of Wisdom and it is gratifying to see her return because of the decades of hard work conducted to manage and protect albatross nesting habitat.”
“Wisdom left soon after mating but we expect her back any day now to lay her egg,” noted Deputy Refuge Manager, Bret Wolfe. “It is very humbling to think that she has been visiting Midway for at least 64 years. Navy sailors and their families likely walked by her not knowing she could possibly be rearing a chick over 50 years later. She represents a connection to Midway’s past as well as embodying our hope for the future.”
Although many birds lose their bands before they can be replaced, fortunately, Wisdom’s bands have been continuously replaced. The Wildlife Service indicates that Wisdom is the same bird originally banded by distinguished author and Service ornithologist, Chandler Robbins.
Biologists could find older birds as time-worn bands continue to be habitually replaced. Laysan albatrosses characteristically mate for life, but experts think Wisdom has probably had more than one mate and has raised as many as 36 chicks.
“Laying only one egg per year, a breeding albatross and their mate will spend approximately six months rearing and feeding their young,” the release revealed. “When not tending to their chicks, albatross forage hundreds of miles out at sea periodically returning with meals of squid or flying fish eggs.”