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Long-lived Wisdom, the Albatross

She has been nesting on tiny Midway Island for decades
© Kiah Walker USFWS CC View Large

A Laysan Albatross named Wisdom has been nesting and raising chicks on the island of Midway for nearly 60 years. She was banded back in 1956 and was rediscovered, still alive and healthy, in 2002. Since that time, scientists have watched Wisdom closely. Every year, she has managed to navigate the many perils facing her species and successfully raise a new chick. In February 2019, she and her mate welcomed another chick!

This show made possible by Jim and Birte Falconer of Seattle, and Idie Ulsh, helping public radio tell stories about science and nature.

Full Transcript



Long-lived Wisdom, the Albatross

Written by Bob Sundstrom

[Laysan Albatross calls ]

This is BirdNote.

In 1956, pioneering bird biologist Chandler Robbins was fastening ID bands to the legs of Laysan Albatrosses. His work took place on tiny Midway Island way out in the Pacific Ocean, where roughly one million Laysan albatrosses nest each year.

Little did Robbins suspect he would re-find, in 2002, one of the same females he had banded 46 years earlier! In honor of her unprecedented history, another researcher named the long-lived albatross “Wisdom.”

Since then, scientists have been checking in on Wisdom. And each year she has not only nested but laid eggs and raised chicks successfully! She’s set records for endurance and longevity — as well as fertility — for her species.

[Laysan Albatross calls]

And it must not have been easy for her, with all the plastic rubbish, fishing lines, and nets that plague these elegant seabirds.

At nearly 70, Wisdom is the oldest known banded bird in the wild.

It’s not known with certainty how many years an albatross might live. One thing we do know for certain: Wisdom has fans all over the world, rooting for her to return to Midway this November.

[Laysan Albatross colony sounds,, 1.18-1.24]

For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.

This show made possible by Jim and Birte Falconer of Seattle, and Idie Ulsh, helping public radio tell stories about science and nature.

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. And by the Xeno-canto Foundation. Recorded by: XC178538 David M.; ML959 E Booth.

BirdNote’s theme composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2018 Tune In to   November 2018   Narrator: Mary McCann
ID#  LAAL-02-2018-11-06    LAAL-02


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