Wisdom, 62, hatches albatross chick

February 8th, 2013
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Wisdom, who just hatched another chick at 62 (or older) at Midway Atoll, is shown here with a mate. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wisdom, who just hatched another chick at the age of 62 (or older) at Midway Atoll, is shown here with a mate. Wisdom's longevity inspires hope among those who are working to conserve the endangered species. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mothers, take note.

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross believed to  be at least 62 years old, has hatched a chick on Midway Atoll National Wild Refuge for the sixth consecutive year. The chick was observed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Pete Leary early on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 3 and appears to be healthy.

It's a positive sign for the future of the Laysan albatross, an endangered species. The Laysan albatross has a wing span up to six feet and typically lives 12 to 40 years. But up to 40 percent of chicks die each year with stomachs full of plastic.

Wisdom's mate tends to her newly hatched chick. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wisdom's mate tends to their newly hatched chick. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Everyone continues to be inspired by Wisdom as a symbol of hope for her species," said Doug Staller, the Fish and Wildlife Superintendent for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Wisdom was first banded in 1956, when she was incubating an egg in the same area — she was believed to be at least five years old at the time. Typically, the albatrosses breed at eight or nine years of age, but can also breed as early as five. Since then, she's worn out five bird bands.

One of the greatest threats to the Laysan albatross chicks is "death by ingestion of plastic. Photo by CLaire Johnson/NOAA.

One of the greatest threats to the Laysan albatross chicks is "death by ingestion of plastic. Photo by Claire Johnson/NOAA.

Wisdom has likely raised at least 30 to 35 chicks during her breeding life, according to Peterjohn.

Albatross lay only one egg a year.

Wisdom is also believed to have logged about 50,000 miles a year as an adult.

"It is beyond words to describe the amazing accomplishments of this wonderful bird and how she demonstrates the value of bird banding to better understand the world around us," said Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird  Banding Program at USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. "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. Simply incredible."

The greatest threats to Laysan albatrosses are longline fishing (they get hooked or drowned), marine debris (death by plastic ingestion, including adults who feed plastic to their chicks which lead to starvation), invasive species predators such as rats and wild cats and lead poisoning from lead-based paint used in previous decades.

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