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11/30/2015 04:21 PM EST



A big thanks to Kiah Walker, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial volunteer, for capturing this photo of Wisdom and her mate! 

Wisdom a Laysan albatross and, the world’s oldest known banded bird in the wild has returned to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. On November 19 and just in time for the special day of giving thanks, almost a year to the day she returned last year, Wisdom was spotted with her mate among the world’s largest nesting albatross colony.

“In the face of dramatic seabird population decreases worldwide –70% drop since the 1950’s when Wisdom was first banded–Wisdom has become a symbol of hope and inspiration,” said Refuge Manager, Dan Clark.” We are a part of the fate of Wisdom and it is gratifying  to see her return because of the decades of hard work conducted to manage and protect albatross nesting habitat.”

“Wisdom left soon after mating but we expect her back any day now to lay her egg,” noted Deputy Refuge Manager, Bret Wolfe. “It is very humbling to think that she has been visiting Midway for at least 64 years. Navy sailors and their families likely walked by her not knowing she could possibly be rearing a chick over 50 years later.  She represents a connection to Midway’s past as well as embodying our hope for the future.”

Wisdom was first banded in 1956. And because Laysan albatross do not return to breed until they are at least five years old,  it is estimated Wisdom is at least 64 years old, but she could be older.  Many birds lose their bands before they can be replaced. Wisdom’s bands, however, were continuously replaced and because of meticulous record keeping associated with bird banding, we can verify she is the same bird first banded by noted author and Service ornithologist, Chandler Robbins. Biologists may find even older birds as old worn bands continue to be routinely replaced.

Although Laysan albatrosses typically mate for life, Wisdom has likely had more than one mate and has raised as many as 36 chicks. Laying only one egg per year, a breeding albatross and their mate will spend approximately six months rearing and feeding their young. When not tending to their chicks, albatross forage hundreds of miles out at sea periodically returning with meals of squid or flying fish eggs. Wisdom has likely clocked over six million ocean miles of flight time.

Video and images of previous nesting and egg laying:

Life History: