In 1956, scientists at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge banded a female Albatross they named “Wisdom.” According to a story by NPR, Wisdom hatched approximately her 36th egg in February.
Midway Atoll is a tiny island in the Hawaiian Archipelago that lies almost exactly halfway between the United States and Asia.
Midway is the breeding grounds for 70% of the world’s Laysan albatrosses, and about 40% of the black-footed albatross population. Albatrosses mate for life and millions of the birds return each year to the atoll to meet up with their partner at their nest, even though female’s do not lay eggs every year.
When they do lay an egg, it is only one, and the male and female share care and incubation responsibilities. Eggs incubate for about 65 days, and once they hatch, the parents go on to share feeding duties, flying up to 1,000 miles each day to forage for food.
“Wisdom laid her egg sometime during the last few days of November. Soon after, Wisdom returned to sea to forage and her mate Akeakamai took over incubation duties,” reported the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s.
Albatrosses mate for life, and Wisdom’s current partner has been with her since at least 2012 when biologists first banded the bird.
“Though albatross mate for life, they may find new partners if necessary — for example if they outlive their first mate,” Said Beth Flint, who is the supervisory wildlife biologist at the Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Wisdom’s age and perpetual return to Midway has provided invaluable insight into the life of wild birds, and albatrosses in particular, providing useful information to conservationists.
“Each year that Wisdom returns, we learn more about how long seabirds can live and raise chicks,” Flint says. “Her return not only inspires bird lovers everywhere, but helps us better understand how we can protect these graceful seabirds and the habitat they need to survive into the future.”
Researchers believe that throughout the years, Wisdom has gained valuable experience that has contributed to her long life.
“I think that over the years, she’s definitely learned to avoid predators out in the ocean, and she’s learned to forage very efficiently and also maybe avoid plastic these days and potentially fishing vessels,” biologist John Klavitter told NPR back in 2013.