The oldest known bird in the wild, a Laysan albatross named Wisdom. Kiah Walker, Wikimedia Commons
EXPLORING NATURE: OLD BIRD
One of the best feel-good stories I know of concerns an aging albatross on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean.
That albatross has been given the fond name of “Wisdom” and she is the oldest wild bird on the planet as far as humans can determine.
Wisdom will turn at least 70 this year and while she spends most all her time at sea, she returns each year to Midway Island for nesting and breeding. She was first banded by naturalist Chandler Robbins in 1956, the year Dwight Eisenhower was elected president.
Wisdom’s current mate on Midway is a male bird originally named “Goo” but more recently re-christened a more-dignified “Akeakamaii,” Hawaiian for “lover of Wisdom.”
Midway Island is about the size of New York’s Central Park. At the height of the breeding season, there will be some 500,000 nests on the island.
Among all these nests, the grande dame of birds, the world’s oldest wild bird, will go on living just as she has since at least 1951. She will fly out to sea to dive for her favorite food, squid, and then return to incubate no more than one egg each year. Over time, she has logged at least three million flight miles.
I am comforted to think that, in this changing world, there are two constants I can count on: The sun will rise tomorrow. And Wisdom will incubate her annual egg on Midway Island.