World’s oldest wild bird stuns scientists by giving birth — at age 62

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News
Here paired female albatross; while the urge is to call these birds "lesbians," two biologists say that can give the misinformation that human sexuality is a "disease" that can be "cured."

Wisdom the Laysan albatross is the world's oldest known wild bird. Scientists stuck a tag on her ankle decades ago, and have since been astounded to see her live twice as long as expected.

While most Laysan albatross females have a lifespan of 12 to 40 years, Wisdom has reached her 62nd birthday. And on Sunday, she hatched a healthy chick.

"A Laysan albatross known as 'Wisdom' – believed to be at least 62 years old – has hatched a chick on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge for the sixth consecutive year. Early Sunday morning, February 3, 2013, the chick was observed pecking its way into the world by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Pete Leary, who said the chick appears healthy. Wisdom was first banded in 1956, when she was incubating an egg in the same area of the refuge. She was at least five years old at the time," a press release announced.

Wisdom is now the oldest albatross known to have given birth. A 61-year-old Northern Royal albatross from New Zealand named Grandma was the previous record-holder.

"It blows us away that this is a 62-year-old bird and she keeps laying eggs and raising chicks," Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the Bird Banding Laboratory at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland told the Washington Post.

"We know that birds will eventually stop reproducing, when they're too old to breed anymore," he said. "The assumption about albatross is it will happen to them, too. But we don't know where that line is. That in and of itself is pretty amazing."

Scientists believe that Wisdom has raised at least 30 to 35 chicks during her breeding life thus far.

"As Wisdom rewrites the record books, she provides new insights into the remarkable biology of seabirds," said Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland. "It is beyond words to describe the amazing accomplishments of this wonderful bird and how she demonstrates the value of bird banding to better understand the world around us. If she were human, she would be elible for Medicare in a couple years yet she is still regularly raising young and annually circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean. Simply incredible."

Albatrosses aren't the world's oldest birds — parrots in captivity have lived to 80 — but are the oldest-known birds in the wild.