East Hawaii News

Oldest Banded Bird Spotted Within Papahānaumokuākea

November 25, 2015, 3:01 PM HST
* Updated November 25, 3:08 PM
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Widsom, the world’s oldest known banded bird in the wild, was recently spotted on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

The Laysan albatross, which is believed to be at least 64 years old, was sighted on Nov. 19 with her mate, according to United States Fish and Wildlife Service officials.

“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 was first banded in 1956, and because Laysan albatross don’t return to breed until they are at least five years old, researchers estimate that she is at least 64 years old, with the potential to be older.

Over the years, Wisdom’s band has been replaced and because of the recordkeeping strategies associated with banning, scientists are able to determine that she is the same bird first banned by author and Service ornithologist Chandler Robbins.

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“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.”

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It’s likely that although Laysan albatrosses typically mate for life, Wisdom has had more than one mate and has raised up to 36 chicks.

Laysan albatrosses lay one egg per year and a breeding albatross and their mate spends about six months rearing and feeding their young. These albatross, when not feeding their young, are known to forge hundreds of miles out at sea periodically returning with meals of squid or flying fish eggs.

In her tracked lifetime, Wisdom has traveled over six million ocean miles.

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