The world’s oldest bird is a mother once again. The bird in question is a Laysan albatross called Wisdom. She is at least 67 years old, and has just laid an egg. This avian record closely rivals the oldest human to give birth at the age of 72. Scientists are amazed that Wisdom is still able to reproduce.
Wisdom was first tagged in 1956 and estimated to be at least 6 years old then. However, it is possible that Wisdom is even older than we think because the taggers made a conservative estimte. The avian sexagenarian is beating the typical lifespan of her species, which is 50. It is possible that there are other birds out there even older than Wisdom that have not been tagged. She is not the oldest bird that has ever been alive. A cockatoo called Cookie that died at the age of 83 is the oldest confirmed bird.
Wisdom and millions of other albatrosses return to their nesting grounds at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument on Midway Atoll each year. She always returns to the same nesting site.
The US Fish and Wildlife Services spotted Wisdom and her mate Akeakamai taking care of an egg at her nest last November. Laysan albatrosses form life-long pairs, and usually mourn for a year or two when one partner dies. Wisdom has outlived at least one of her mates. The eggs take between 60 and 64 days to hatch so the expected due date is mid-February. Albatrosses (and almost every other animal) normally reproduce until they die so it is not unusual that she is still churning out chicks each year. She has raised about 39 chicks and hatched a chick successfully each year for the past twelve years.. Considering that albatrosses don’t reproduce every year and only have one at time, this number is quite high.
The number of Laysan Albatrosses declined a few decades ago and has recovered somewhat. Wisdom has definitely been helping her species out by raising so many chicks successfully.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!