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Mum at 60 - oldest bird in the U.S. has a chick

by Ruth Hendry 09 Mar 2011
Mum at 60 - oldest bird in the U.S. has a chick

At 60 years old, Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known in the U.S. First recorded in 1956 as she incubated an egg, Wisdom has seen it all - from the first man on the moon, to the fall of the Berlin Wall and beyond.

Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) suggests that Wisdom is likely to have raised 30 to 35 chicks over her 60 years. Laysan albatross generally mate for life, with both parents raising the young, so it's possible that Wisdom's partner is around the same age.

Laysan albatross spend their first 3 to 5 years at sea, before returning to breed in Hawaii. They lay only one egg a year, but it takes most of the year to incubate and raise the chick. During the months when they are not breeding, Laysan albatross do not touch land. They even sleep whilst they are in flight over the ocean! This means that Wisdom could have clocked up an astonishing 3 million miles since 1956.

Wisdom's remarkable record is just one example of the valuable data provided by bird banding. Banding data from the North American Bird Banding Program documents migratory patterns, provides critical information used to manage populations of migratory game birds, and supports research activities on issues from toxicology to disease transmission and behaviour.

As well as being a heart warming story, Wisdom's breeding longevity means that we have to re-assess what we know about these birds. It's also testament to the fine work of the USGS who tirelessly work to study species across the U.S. Bruce Peterjohn says ''While the process of banding a bird has not changed greatly during the past century, the information provided by birds marked with a simple numbered metal band has transformed our knowledge of birds.''

So, congratulations on your new chick Wisdom, and keep up the good work USGS!


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