World's oldest-known wild bird lays egg at 62

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, recently hatched on Midway Island what could be her 35th offspring.

When's a good age to have a baby? How does 62 sound?

The United States Geological Survey reports that Wisdom, a Laysan albatross and the world's oldest-known wild bird, recently hatched a healthy chick at the tender age of 62 on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, located in the North Pacific Ocean. The chick is estimated to be between Wisdom's 30th and 35th offspring.

According to the USGS, albatrosses lay only one egg per year, and that bud takes one year to incubate. Wisdom is known to have nested in 2006 and then every year since 2008.

First tagged in 1956 when she was 5, Wisdom is believed to have reared chicks many times before 2006. It's unknown when Wisdom hatched her first chick. Albatrosses can begin breeding at the age of 5, though they typically do so between the ages of 8 and 9 following a complex courtship. 

"Everyone continues to be inspired by Wisdom as a symbol of hope for her species," Doug Staller, the Fish and Wildlife Service superintendent for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which includes the Midway Atoll refuge, said in a USGS press release.

In addition to incredible chick-rearing abilities, albatrosses are also prolific fliers. The birds are able to soar for thousands of miles on wind currents without flapping their wings, instead angling them to adjust for and glide through varying wind speeds. It's believed Wisdom has logged 2 to 3 million miles as an adult, which is the equivalent of four to six round trips from the Earth to the moon.

"If she were human, she would be eligible for Medicare in a couple years, yet she is still regularly raising young and annually circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean," Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, said in the same release.

Initially following the devastating tsunami on March 11, 2011, that swept massive waves across the Pacific Ocean and killed thousands of seabirds, Wisdom was unaccounted for. Scientists eventually tracked her and speculated she'd survived the carnage because of the high location of her nest and the smarts she's developed in her more than 60 years on Earth.

The bird's prolific birthing achievements are greeted with enthusiasm from scientists because of the dangers facing the albatross. Currently 19 of 21 albatross species are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The birds face numerous perils, including lead poisoning in chicks from paint used on Midway in previous decades, fishing nets that can ensnare them, pollution and the ingestion of plastic, which does not kill the birds directly but reduces their ability to eat and drink, which diminishes the species' chance of survival. 

In addition to 15,000 human deaths, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami also killed approximately 1,000 Laysan albatrosses and 10,000 of their chicks, Wired reported. Despite the devastation, scientists expect the species to recover from the loss because enough breeding adults survived.

"When I gaze at Wisdom, I feel as though I've entered a time machine," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Klavitter told Wired in 2011. "My mind races to the past and all the history she has observed through time."

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