A Talk on the Wild Side.
Wisdom’s mate Akeakamai stands over their newly hatched chick. Photo by Bob Peyton/USFWS
Wisdom, a Laysan albatross and world’s oldest known banded wild bird, hatched another chick recently at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial. She is at least 68 years old, has raised more than 30 chicks in her lifetime.
“She’s incredibly powerful as a symbol of why we do what we do and why people all over the world pay attention to her,” says Beth Flint, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife biologist.
Wisdom and mate Akeakamai spent about two months incubating the egg, and now they will raise the chick, which needs five to six months before it leaves the island to fly out to sea, or “fledge.” This process takes up so much time and energy, so most Laysan albatross do not lay an egg every year.
“Because Laysan albatross don’t lay eggs every year and when they do, they raise only one chick at a time, the contribution of even one bird to the population makes a difference,” says Bob Peyton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project leader for Midway Atoll Refuge and Memorial.
For the first years of their lives, albatross grow and mature at sea. Starting around age 5, juvenile Laysan return to their home colony during breeding season and begin the search for a mate - a process that can take years. During nesting season, juvenile albatross can be found all over Midway Atoll practicing elaborate courtship dances or dozens of ritualized movements. When they find that special bird to dip, bow and preen with, the pair stays bonded for life.