This 70-Year-Old Albatross Is the World’s Oldest Known Wild Bird

The world’s oldest known wild bird is a Laysan albatross named Wisdom that biologists first identified and banded in 1956. She is now at least 70-years-old and just hatched another chick.

First banded in 1956, by biologist Chandler Robbins, who found her nest near a US navy base on the Midway Atoll that the world’s largest colony of albatross calls home, Wisdom has now outlived the man who discovered her, as well as all her male mates. Although cockatoos in captivity have been known to live nearly 100 years, for wild birds the odds of living over seven decades are extremely slim. Predators, food scarcity and, more recently, plastic waste, are all life-threatening factors that wild albatross deal with on a regular basis. And, yet, despite having the odds stacked against her, Wisdom has managed to live longer than any wild bird known to man.

Photo: Phill Botha/Unsplash

“Each year that Wisdom returns, we learn more about how long seabirds can live and raise chicks,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Beth Flint told NPR. “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.”

Over the past decade, Wisdom has impressed scientists with her ability to stay alive while flying thousands of miles in search of food and taking care of her hatchlings. Some biologists believe that the albatross has developed a unique set of skills that allow her to avoid predators and be very productive, which played a big part in her longevity.


“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,” Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge biologist John Klavitter said.

Albatrosses only hatch one egg every few years, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) believes that Wisdom has hatched between 30 and 36 hatchlings during her life, the last one earlier this year. The chick was fathered by Akeakamai, her lastest mate, who she has been with since 2010.


“We believe Wisdom has had other mates,” Dr. Beth Flint said. “Though albatross mate for life, they may find new partners if necessary – for example, if they outlive their first mate.”

Because albatrosses only nest every couple of years or so, biologists always eagerly await to see if she will return to Midway Atoll, and she hasn’t disappointed them yet.