At 67, Wisdom, the world’s oldest known breeding bird in the wild, is a mother once more.
On Feb. 6, about two months after she began incubating her egg, Wisdom the Laysan albatross and her mate, Akeakamai, welcomed their newest chick to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge at Papahanauomokuakea Marine National Monument.
Wisdom has successfully raised at least 30 albatross chicks over the course of her life. Laysan albatross do not lay eggs every year and raise only one chick at a time, so the contribution of one bird to the population makes a huge difference, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Midway Atoll’s habitat doesn’t just contain millions of birds, it contains countless generations and families of albatrosses,” said Kelly Goodale, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge biologist. “If you can imagine when Wisdom returns home she is likely surrounded by what were once her chicks and potentially their chicks. What a family reunion!”
Albatross start to return from sea to breed at the same nesting sites at Midway in late October, and by the end of November, nearly every available nesting space is claimed by a breeding pair.
A single egg is laid and incubated for a little over two months. After the chick hatches, it will still be another five months before it will leave the nest. In that time, Wisdom and her mate Akeakamai, like all albatross parents, take turns incubating the egg or caring for the chick while the other forages for food at sea.
Midway is home to the largest albatross colony in the world and is the most important and successful breeding colony for black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) and Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis). It is also home to the endangered Short-tailed albatross (Phoebastria albatrus).