Wisdom Q&A's

Wisdom and Mate

We have come up with a list of the most frequently asked question about Wisdom. This list is continually growing so please check back!

  • How many mates has Wisdom had?

    We know Wisdom has had at least two mates. Laysan albatross mate for life, but apparently Wisdom out-lived at least the first mate. Using Twitter and the help of the public, Wisdom's mate is now named Akeakamai, meaning 'lover of wisdom'.

  • Is is unusual for birds to breed that late in life? She's already outlived the typical lifespan for albatross.

    Laysan albatross breed their entire lives after reaching maturity (for Laysan albatross that is between 5 to 9 years old). They hatch and care for one chick at least every other year because it takes a tremendous amount of energy for them to produce and lay an egg, protect and feed a chick, a process that takes more than 7 months. It requires both healthy parents to rear a chick (which is why Wisdom and her mate switch so often after their chick hatches. Not all chicks will make it because of  threats at sea(many human caused) such as lack of food, long-line fishermen not heeding to best practices to minimize hooking seabirds, etc. Albatross do not produce multiple chicks at one time so they have to spend their entire adult life assuring their species survives.

  • What is her mate’s band number?

    He wears a red band on his left leg that reads (G000). 

  • Why was her chick named Kūkini?

    The recommended name from Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) is: Kūkini. Literally meaning “messenger”, in this case the arrival of this chick and the amazing story of Wisdom both bring important messages. Traveling thousands of miles each year, albatross are indicators of the health of our oceans and face constant threats such as marine debris, irresponsible fishing practices, habitat degradation and invasive species. Wisdom and her chick are a story of perseverance and serve as messengers that remind all people of the need to work together to aloha ‘āina - care for our world.

     - Office of Hawaiian Affair’s Keola Lindsey

  • How many chicks have Wisdom and her mates reared?

     We are assuming Wisdom has raised approximately 38 chicks based on the nesting pattern of Laysan albatross. Breeding age albatross return to the island they were reared at least every other year to find their life long mate and lay one egg. From the time the egg is laid, it takes a tremendous amount of energy for parents to rear a healthy chick. They take turns incubating, tending to the nest, caring and feeding the chick and foraging for food. 

  • Regarding "The oldest known bird in the wild..." -- does mean oldest in the world or at Midway?

    Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, is the oldest known banded bird living in the wild. Because of the long standing banding program managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Bird Banding Lab in Patuxent Maryland, we know Wisdom is the oldest banded bird still living in the wild (and still rearing chicks).

    A few years ago the oldest known bird, named Grandma, was a wandering albatross that previously nested in New Zealand. She has not been sighted for years and is presumed deceased because they ALWAYS come back to their same nest site at least every other year to breed.

  • How do albatrosses feed their chicks?

     They literally regurgitate (a.k.a. throw-up) squid, small fish and fish eggs into the mouth of their chick. They will fly hundreds of miles at sea to forage and return, sometimes weeks later, once they acquire enough food to feed their chick as well as themselves. 

  • How do we know exactly how old Wisdom is?

    Robbins estimated Wisdom to be at least five years old in 1956 when she was first banded. Albatross do not reach their breeding age until at least five years of age and most do not breed until they are around 7 years of age. This translates to: Wisdom could be much older. 

  • What is Wisdom’s band number?

    Today, she wears a stainless steel band on the left leg (1517-62900) and a field readable red plastic band on the right leg (Z333).  These bands replaced older aluminum bands that were showing signs of wear.    

  • I thought an albatross named Grandma was the oldest banded bird in the world?

    Grandma was a Northern Royal Albatross (Diomedea epomophora sanfordi) that lived until at least 61-years of age when she was last sighted with her chick.  However, she has not been sighted since and is presumed dead.  She nested in the southern hemisphere at Taiaroa Head, New Zealand. 

  • Where is Wisdom today?

    Wisdom has once again returned to Midway Atoll Refuge. She and her mate will take turns throughout the breeding season incubating the egg and then rearing the chick. When she is not on the nest, she is foraging, flying or resting on the ocean near the coast of Russia or along Alaska's Bering Sea. 

  • How long does it take an egg to hatch?

      The incubation period for Laysan albatross is anywhere for 62 to 66 days. This has been an exceptionally dry winter and other unknown factors could influence the hatching date. 

  • do albatross go through menopause?

    Biologically these birds were meant to produce one chick at least every other year once they reach breeding age (~7 years old).  Of Wisdom's ~40 chicks maybe 15 have survived despite all the threats (unfortunately some human caused too) they face at sea and that is over her 65 year breeding period. Because it takes an exhaustive effort for at least 6 months on both parents just to raise and feed one chick, nature has a way of assuring Laysan albatross never go through menopause so their species can sustain itself.

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