Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Her eighth decade approaches: 68-something Wisdom the Laysan Albatross is back on Midway for another breeding season

Wisdom, the famous Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis who is the world’s oldest known wild bird, has returned once more to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the USA’s North Western Hawaiian Islands to commence the 2018/19 breeding season.

This season she was first seen at her usual nest site on the atoll’s Sand Island on 29 November, and it has been confirmed that she has laid an egg.  Wisdom was first banded as an adult on Midway in 1956, and is considered to be at least 68 years old, factoring in the age of maturity for the species.  Wisdom and her colour-banded mate Akeakamai ("Love of Wisdom") have been returning to the same nest site on Midway Atoll each year since at least 2016 – although it is likely she has had a number of mates over her long life.

Wisdom on her egg this breeding season, showing her identifying colour band Red Z333; photograph by B. Peyton, USFWS

“Wisdom was first banded during a bird survey in 1956 by a biologist named Chandler Robbins.  At the time, Wisdom wasn’t particularly special, she wasn’t even Wisdom.  She was just one of the hundreds of thousands of returning to Midway and one of 8,400 albatross that were banded that year.  In a strange twist of fate, it was Robbins himself who “rediscovered” Wisdom 46 years later during a survey near the same nesting location.  As he recorded her band number, he noticed that he had been the original recorder all those years ago during his first season on Midway”.  Chandler Robbins passed away in 2017 at the age of 98.

The banded chick that Wisdom fledged in 2001 was observed close to her usual nest site nest in 2017; the first time a returning chick of hers has been documented.

Read more here and view many photos and videos of Wisdom here.

You can read more about Wisdom in the many postings to ACAP Latest News over the last eight years or so (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer,13 December 2018