Wisdom Returns to Midway Island
The US Fish and Game service announced this week that Wisdom, the Midway Albatross has returned to Midway Island for the 2018 nesting season. And she’s laid an egg! They say, “Wisdom and her mate Akeakamai return to the same nest site on Midway Atoll each year. Albatross often take time off to rest between egg-laying years, but the pair have met on Midway to lay and hatch an egg every year since 2006.”
I first heard her story in 2011, because she survived the Japanese tsunami that struck in March that year, killing thousands and destroying a nuclear plant. Even seven years ago, it was an amazing story of survival. That’s when I worked with illustrator Kitty Harvill to write her story.
How Old is the Oldest Wild Bird in the World?
Answer: The oldest wild bird in the world is at least 68 years old.
- How to a bird’s age? We don’t know exactly how old Wisdom, the Midway albatross is because no one was there at her birth. However, she was banded on December 10, 1956, or sixty-two years ago. At the time, she was nesting and the minimum age for these birds to breed is 5-6 years old. That means Wisdom is at least 67-68 years old, but may be much older.
Ornithologist Chandler Robbins who banded her said in 2012, “While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day I banded her.” Robbins passed away in March, 2017.
We must quickly qualify this answer: Wisdom is the oldest known wild bird in the world.
- Known: If Wisdom is 68 years old, there are likely older birds, but they just didn’t get banded. With over 650,000 Laysan albatrosses nesting on Midway, it’s impossible to band every one.
- Wild: There are older birds in captivity. For example, Cookie the Cockatoo lived to be 83 years old.