These giant seabirds have the longest wingspan of any seabird, ranging from 6.5 to 11 feet wide. They are known for their massive body weight of 22 pounds, and average life span of 50 years. You don’t have to get a close-up look in order to see their unmissable slender wings that make them excellent gliders. Any guesses about which great flying creature I am referring to?
Albatrosses! Speaking of this magnificent species, you might have heard about a specific albatross on the news last Friday, March 5, 2021. The world’s oldest known wild bird, a 70 year-old Laysan albatross, named Wisdom, hatched yet another egg. Wisdom has laid between 30 and 36 eggs before this, and laid her most recent one late last year, but the chick only hatched on February 1. She was first spotted and banded in 1956 on Midway Atoll by ornithologist Chandler Robbins. Aside from her record-breaking age, Wisdom has logged hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of miles flying around the northern Pacific Ocean, and biologists have confirmed she has lived about twice as long as the average Laysan albatross.
It is fascinating to see all of the facts that can be uncovered just by the circle of life. According to Dr. Beth Flint, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “though albatrosses tend to mate for life, Wisdom’s longevity means that she has had multiple mates.” Biologists have confirmed that the father of the chick that hatched on Feb. 1 is Akeakamai, Wisdom’s mate since at least 2012.
The Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial, found in the far northern end of the Hawaiian Islands, is home to the world’s largest colony of albatrosses and millions more sea birds. In fact, this is near the place where Wisdom was first spotted in 1956. Albatrosses like Wisdom and Akeakamai come back to the 2.5-square-mile island each winter for nesting and mating. These sea birds typically lay at most one egg a year as the effort of incubating, feeding, and parenting it after it hatches is so great. This is another fact of science that Wisdom defied, hatching chicks almost every year for the past 15 years.
In a nutshell, no matter how much research we humans put into biology, or any field of science for that matter, nature will always have a way to defy us, whether it be through a natural disaster, or a magnificent, 70 year-old albatross. Rather than ignoring Wisdom’s incredible feat, we should look at it in awe and get the message that as long as you try hard enough and never give up, success will be on your side.