Wisdom, the oldest known wild bird in the world, returns to Midway Atoll


She is back!

Wisdom, a Mōlī (Laysan Albatross) and the oldest known banded wild bird in the world, has returned to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and the Battle of Midway National Memorial. The bird was banded in 1956 and is at least 69 years old. The wisdom was first discovered in their nest on Sunday November 29th. Biologists have confirmed that she laid an egg. Wisdom and her buddy take turns incubating the egg.

Every year, millions of albatrosses return to Midway Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to nest and raise their young.

“Every year when Wisdom returns, she rewrites what we know about albatross longevity – and inspires the next generation,” said Jared Underwood, superintendent of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “Wisdom helps us better understand how long these birds live and how often they breed. This knowledge influences our management measures in order to secure a future for albatrosses that are dependent on refuge and memorials. “

Wisdom and her mate Akeakamai, like most albatross pairs, return to the same nesting site almost every year. This behavior is known as “nesting site loyalty,” and makes sites with large colonies of nesting birds such as Midway Atoll critical to the future survival of sea birds such as Wisdom.

Mōlī family reunion

Raising the next generation of albatross is no easy task. Albatross parents take turns hatching the egg or looking after the chick while the others look for food at sea. You will spend approximately seven months on Midway Atoll incubating and raising your chick. Because this process takes so much time and energy, most molī do not lay an egg every year.

However, Wisdom and her mate have met almost every year since 2006 on Midway Atoll to lay and hatch an egg. Wisdom has laid between 30 and 36 eggs in her lifetime. In 2017, the chick that she fled in 2001 was observed just a few meters from her current nest. This was the first time she had documented a returning chick. Countless generations of albatrosses on Midway Atoll have a similar family gathering every year.

From the age of five, juvenile albatrosses begin to find a partner. During the breeding season, they practice elaborate courtship dances with dozens of ritualized movements all over Midway Atoll. These young birds are looking for that special bird to dive, bow, and preen with. Once a pair bond is formed, they stay connected for a lifetime.

“Albatrosses lay one egg at a time and often take a year off between laying eggs, so just one bird’s contribution makes a difference,” said Keely Lopez, acting Midway Atoll Refuge Manager. “It is wonderful to think how much wisdom and other albatrosses like you have contributed to the survival of their species.”

Almost 70% of the world’s Mōlī and almost 40% of the Kaʻupu (black-footed albatross) and the endangered Makalena (short-tailed albatross) are dependent on the Midway Atoll. In addition to albatrosses, over 20 different bird species live on the Midway Atoll. In total, over three million individual birds are home to the refuge and memorial.

The banding began in 1936

Scientific research and surveillance play an essential role in wildlife management, including seabirds, throughout the monument. Surveys and banding projects carried out at the monument and around the world are helping scientists better understand the life cycles and migration patterns of birds. Biologists began tying albatrosses on Midway Atoll in 1936. To date, over 275,000 albatrosses have been banded in the refuge and memorial. By combining modern data analysis with detailed current and historical records, biologists can make more informed management decisions to ensure that seabirds have the habitat and resources they will need in the future.

Biologists and volunteers are working to restore the habitat seabirds need in Midway Atoll and eliminate threats like invasive predators – because protecting the future for seabirds means protecting the places they call home.

Thank you United States Fish and Wildlife Service for providing this news.

Albatrosses now unleaded on Midway

A visit to Pihemanu

What Papahanaumokuakea means to birds

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