Wisdom the albatross, the world’s oldest known wild bird, has another chick at age 70

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At 70 years of age, Wisdom the Laysan albatross has hatched another chick.

Regarded as “oldest known wild bird in history“, Wisdom has outlived previous mating partners as well as the biologist Chandler Robbins, who first banded her in 1956.

Wisdom hatched the chick on 1 February in the Midway Atoll national wildlife refuge in the North Pacific, where more than a million albatross return to nest each year.

Wisdom’s long-term mate, Akeakamai, who she has been with since 2010 according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), fathered the chick. The USFWS also stated that albatross find their mates through “dance parties”.

“We believe Wisdom has had other mates,” US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Dr Beth Flint said in the organisation’s article on medium. “Though albatross mate for life, they may find new partners if necessary – for example if they outlive their first mate.”

USFWS estimated Wisdom has hatched more than 30 chicks over the course of her lifetime.

Sean Dooley, national public affairs manager for BirdLife Australia, was excited about the news of Wisdom’s latest chick.

“Because she only nests every two years, the international bird community looks forward to see if she’s been able to come back and nest,” Dooley said. “The odds are stacked against them so much, whenever it happens it’s always a cause for celebration.”

Dooley said in addition being slow breeders, long line fishing and other fishing industries have taken a big toll on sea birds such as the albatross.

Dooley said climate change was affecting Wisdom’s species.

“The changes in water temperate and the changes in currents in water and winds means … the extent they have to fly to find food increases as their prey species seek out colder water – it’s a big looming threat that sea birds are facing, albatross in particular.”

In terms of Wisdom’s age, Dooley said that “for a lot of wild animals, they are productive right up to old age. It’s only primates and whales that have an extended lifespan after fertility.

“To humans it seems remarkable but we’re still determining whether this is par for the course for these magnificent birds.”

Wisdom is part of one of the oldest studies in terms of continual bird banding.

“Each year that Wisdom returns, we learn more about how long seabirds can live and raise chicks,” Flint told the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Dooley said: “In the bird world the other famously long lived birds are the parrots, especially cockatoos.

“In captivity there have been cockatoos getting on towards 100. Eighty or 90 years have been recorded of cockatoos in captivity. Even in the wild they’d be expected to have a natural lifespan of at least 30 to 40 years old, if not older.

“Australian birds are thought to be generally more longer-lived compared to northern hemisphere counterparts because they have to deal with boom and bust conditions. For birds, if they’re short lived, there’s a risk there wouldn’t be a good boom time when they can breed as adults.”

This might be similar with the albatross, according to Dooley, as “the impact of deaths of adults birds are significantly higher because they invest so much time in raising a chick”.

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