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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®: Long-Lived Wisdom, The Albatross

Air Date: Week of

Wisdom with one of her chicks. As of 2018, she is believed to have hatched as many as 35, despite the fact her 67 years of age makes her quite old for her species. (Photo: Kiah Walker, USFWS, CC)

In 1956, a pioneering bird biologist was banding Laysan Albatrosses on Midway Island. 46 years later, he rediscovered one of the same females, who at nearly 70 years of age has raised dozens of chicks and is still going strong today. BirdNote’s Mary McCann has the story on the long-lived albatross, aptly named Wisdom.



BASCOMB: November marks the start of the courtship season for the Laysan
albatross. These seafaring birds can soar hundreds of miles per day with barely
a wingbeat, and they mate for life. BirdNote®’s Mary McCann tells us about an enduring matriarch of the species.

[Laysan Albatross calls]

MCCANN: In 1956, pioneering bird biologist Chandler Robbins was fastening ID bands to the legs of Laysan Albatrosses. His work took place on tiny Midway Island way out in the Pacific Ocean, where roughly one million albatrosses nest each year.

Little did Robbins suspect he would re-find, in 2002, one of the same females he had banded 46 years earlier! In honor of her unprecedented history, another researcher named the long-lived albatross “Wisdom.”

Since then, scientists have been checking in on Wisdom. And each year she has not only nested but laid eggs and raised chicks successfully! She’s set records for endurance and longevity — as well as fertility.

Wisdom is the oldest confirmed wild bird in the world, and since she was tagged in 1956, she is also the world’s oldest banded bird. (Photo: Naomi Blinick, USFWS, CC)

[Laysan Albatross calls]

And it must not have been easy for her, with all the plastic rubbish, fishing lines, and nets that plague these elegant seabirds. At nearly 70, Wisdom is the oldest known banded bird in the wild. It’s not known with certainty how many years an albatross might live. One thing we do know for certain: Wisdom has fans all over the world, rooting for her to return to Midway this November.

I’m Mary McCann.

Written by Bob Sundstrom. Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. BirdNote’s theme composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler. Producer: John Kessler. Managing Producer: Jason Saul. Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2018 Tune In to Nature.org, November 2018. Narrator: Mary McCann






Learn more on the BirdNote website

Read Wisdom the Albatross’ profile

Wisdom has hatched a chick every year since 2006, most recently in early 2018


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