East Hawaii News

Oldest Known Laysan Albatross Hatches Chick

February 9, 2016, 9:12 AM HST
* Updated February 9, 9:29 AM
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Photo credit: Kiah Walker/USFWS.

Photo credit: Kiah Walker/USFWS.

Wisdom, the oldest known Laysan albatross in the wild, is once again a mother.

Sixty-five-year-old Wisdom’s chick was seen coming out of its shell on Feb. 1 at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, part of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

The chick has been named Kūkini, a Hawaiian word for messenger.

“Wisdom is an iconic symbol of inspiration and hope,” said Robert Peyton, Refuge Manager.  “From a scientific perspective, albatrosses are a critical indicator species for the world’s oceans that sustain millions of human beings as well. In the case of Wisdom, she is breaking longevity records of previously banded birds by at least a decade. With over a million albatross on Midway Atoll alone, this shows just how much is left to learn about the natural world around us.”

Wisdom’s mate took over incubation duties on Jan. 20 when Wisdom headed out to sea. On Sunday, Wisdom returned to Midway Atoll Wildlife Refuge, and not long after, her mate took his turn to search for food.

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Since 2006, Wisdom has raised at least eight chicks and as many as 40 in her life. In addition, she has likely flown over three million miles since she was first tagged on Midway Atoll in 1956.

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“That is up to six trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again,” said Bruce Peterjohn, Chief of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s National Bird Banding Laboratory. “What is also miraculous is that biologist Chandler Robbins, who banded her as a breeding adult in 1956 on Midway Atoll, sighted her 46 years later near the same nesting location.”

In late November, Albatrosses arrive on Midway Atoll by the hundreds of thousands.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service volunteers counted 470,000 active nests across the entire atoll in December. Each of those nests represents two adults with a total breeding population of 940,000. The number doesn’t represent the overall population since it leaves out non-breeders in the colony, as well as those resting, searching for a mate, and practicing their mating dance skills.

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Midway Atoll Refuge is home to the world’s largest albatross nesting colony, based on the numbers.

Service volunteers and staff monitor 13 species of birds and conduct hands-on management of nesting habitats by out-planting native plants and suppressing aggressive and invasive plant species that could displace the nesting habitat.

 

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