A Laysan Albatross colony on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument number over a million and cover nearly every square foot of open space during breeding and nesting season. Photo:Andy Collins/NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
But Wisdom's return isn't the only cool thing happening at Midway these days. Dr. Sylvia Earle, former chief scientist of NOAA, recently visted and met Wisdom, and also got to meet a very special newly-hatched chick.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, and "Wisdom", the oldest known living Laysan albatross at least 60 years old share a moment together at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge within Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Photo: Susan Middleton
The chick, pictured below, is the second short-tailed albatross chick recorded to have hatched at Midway. Even cooler? This is only the second hatching in recorded history of a short-tailed albatross any place other than two small islands in Japan!
For the second time on record, a Short-tailed albatross chick has hatched outside of Japan. Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge welcomed the new chick on Jan. 12, 2012, within hours of a visit by Dr. Sylvia Earle and marine artist Wyland. Photo: Pete Leary/USFWS
The chick's parents met four years ago when the female was 5 years-old and the male 21.
They first nested last year only a few yards away from this year's nest, amazing the scientific community by successfully raising and fledging a chick despite two major storms and the March 11, 2011, Japanese tsunami that washed the young bird more than 30 meters from its nest site.
If all goes well, the albatross parents will spend the next five months finding and bringing food to their chick every one to three days. They will log tens of thousands of miles, soaring between Midway and the nutrient-rich waters some 1,000 miles to the northwest, foraging on squid and flying fish eggs they will regurgitate to the chick once back at the Refuge.
Once one of the most abundant albatross species in the North Pacific, short-tailed albatross were hunted for feathers and by 1949 were thought to be extinct. A few birds were seen nesting on the Japanese Island of Torishima in the early 1950s and protection soon followed. Primarily due to international treaties and the work of Japanese researchers, the short-tailed albatross population is beginning to recover.
Check out more photos from Midway Atoll on Flickr.