Wisdom and her chick on Midway Atoll NWR. Photo credit: Ann Bell/USFWS
A Laysan albatross known as “Wisdom” – at least 63 years old – is once again busy rearing a chick on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The newly hatched chick was first by visitor services manager, Ann Bell, being cared for by Wisdom the morning of February 4, 2014. Wisdom is a female albatross first banded as an adult in 1956.
“As the world’s oldest known bird in the wild, Wisdom is an iconic symbol of inspiration and hope for all seabird species.” said Dan Clark, refuge manager for Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. “She provides to the world valuable information about the longevity of these beautiful creatures. In the case of Wisdom, she has logged literally millions of miles over the Pacific Ocean in her lifetime to find enough fish eggs and squid to feed herself and multiple chicks, allowing us the opportunity to measure the health of our oceans which sustain albatross as well as ourselves.”
Wisdom sitting on her nest on Midway Atoll NWR. Photo credit: Ann Bell/USFWS
“Her ability to continue to hatch chicks during the last half century is beyond impressive despite the threats that albatross face at sea.” said refuge biologist Pete Leary. “It is a poignant and overwhelming reality that plastics discarded at sea float, from toothbrushes to millions of bottle caps, float and, are used as a substrate for flying fish to attach their eggs, a food highly prized by foraging albatross and ultimately regurgitated into the chick’s mouth,” said Leary. “In addition, the chick’s sole survival is completely dependent on the health of Wisdom and her life-long mate and their dual ability to provide for food and protection.”
Nesting albatross on Midway Atoll NWR. Photo credit: David Patte/USFWS
Albatrosses arrive on Midway Atoll Refuge by the hundreds of thousands to nest each year. Refuge staff and volunteers are responsible for monitoring the health of these extraordinary, beautiful ocean gliders. After spending five months at sea molting and feeding, albatross return to the same nesting site on Midway Atoll Refuge. Once they mate, an albatross pair will immediately begin to craft a sturdy nest. If they successfully incubate the egg and a chick hatches, each parent takes turns brooding their chick, until it can be left on its own, when they both will then forage for the chick’s meals over the next six months.