Saturday, February 8, 2014

World's oldest wild bird produces chick, in Hawai`i.

With the Olympics going on in Russia, it’s not clear why the local media haven’t picked up on perhaps the most amazing athletic performance in the animal world—at the western end of the Hawaiian archipelago.

That’s where the oldest wild bird known has just produced another offspring.

(Image: If there were Olympic medals for this, she’d get one. Wisdom the 63-year-old Laysan albatross on Midway Atoll with her new chick. Credit: USFWS photo by Ann Bell.)

The Laysan albatross nicknamed “Wisdom” has been faithfully producing new albatrosses for more than half a century. Wisdom is at least 63 years old—she was already a mature adult when she was banded in 1956.

This year, she is raising yet another chick. Like other albatross, she will fly thousands of miles to collect food for the youngster—as she has for her earlier offspring for decades. It is estimated that Wisdom and her mate have raised 30 to 35 young in their lives, and maybe more. She produced one last year as well, and one at age 60 in 2011.

Dan Clark, manager of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, called the bird an “inspiration and hope for all seabird species.”

“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,” Clark said.

To be clear about how remarkable this is, Wisdom is a fully functioning and reproducing albatross at twice the normal albatross life span. If you go here, they’ll tell you the lifestpan of a normal Laysan albatross is 12 to 40 years.

Wisdom has survived and thrived in the face of significant threats to her species.

“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 refuge biologist Pete Leary.

For more information on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and the Battle of Midway National Memorial go here.

See the FWS press release, with more pictures and background on Laysan albatrosses. 

© Jan TenBruggencate 2014

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