A wild bird believed to be the oldest in the world is still making babies and flying 80,000 kilometres a year in her seventh decade of life.
Wisdom, a Laysan albatross who nests in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, about 2,800 kilometres northwest of Hawaii, hatched her latest newborn early Sunday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey repoprted in a news release.
Peter Leary, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who observed the hatching, reported that the chick appeared to be healthy.
Wisdom is at least 62 years old, but could be older than that. She was first banded by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1956 while incubating an egg, so she must have been old enough to breed by then.
Albatrosses typically breed starting at eight or nine years of age. But if Wisdom was an early breeder and started at age five — the earliest possible breeding age for her species — she would now be 62.
To her human followers, Wisdom is "simply incredible," says Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the USGS's North American Bird Banding Program.
"If she were human," he said, "she would be eligible for U.S. Medicare in a couple of years yet she is still regularly raising young and annually circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean."
According to the USGS, albatrosses lay one egg a year, although they occasionally take a year off from breeding. Peterjohn estimates that Wisdom has likely raised at least 30 to 35 chicks to date. Most recently, she has nested every year since 2008.
There are 21 known species of albatross in the world. The Laysan albatross is one of only two that are not considered to be threatened with extinction.