Wisdom still endures
February 27, 2018 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Wisdom, the oldest known wild bird, has yet again successfully hatched a chick on Midway Island. She is 67 years old, and most Laysan Albatrosses only successfully nest every other year, yet this is Wisdom's 13th successful hatch in a row. Chandler Robbins, the citizen scientist who first banded her, and then found her again 46 years later, died last year at the age of 98, still working with birds until the last at Patuxent Research Refuge.
posted by tavella (11 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Nevertheless, she incubated.
posted by Drosera at 4:08 PM on February 27, 2018 [14 favorites]

I'm so proud of her.
posted by brook horse at 4:27 PM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Really happy that Robbins was able to see Wisdom have such a successful and prolific life.

He must have felt his discovery was a real shining moment* in his career.

*I only narrowly avoided saying “a real feather in his cap”.
posted by darkstar at 5:16 PM on February 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

Wisdom, Midway, eggs... this is like looking at an editorial cartoon about a political scandal I have never heard of. I feel these things should all fit together to make a trenchant point, but I am not quite sure how.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:36 PM on February 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Wow, what a cool story! 67...incredible.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:34 PM on February 27, 2018

posted by DJZouke at 6:13 AM on February 28, 2018

A previous from 2013.
posted by zinon at 6:16 AM on February 28, 2018

I love this, I had no idea birds could live that long!
posted by lemonade at 7:55 AM on February 28, 2018

I had no idea birds could live that long!

Indeed. I am always surprised when I read about the lifespans of some birds, because they often look so... flimsy. (Well, albatrosses are not flimsy but until yesterday I would have imagined they top out at fifteen or twenty years.) Elephants can live eighty years, and tortoises can cross the century mark, but they both look like they are built for the long haul. But centenarian parrots blow my mind.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:23 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, Wisdom. What a wonderful testament to the practice of bird banding. Without a ring, Wisdom is just Phoebastria immutabilis. But Robbins held her, sized her up, and gave her a way to tell her own story.
Fun banding facts:
- They're a status thing for duck hunters, who report them for conservation science and also wear them as bling.
- Speaking of bling, say hello to Bandito the piping plover.
- Some (people-friendly species, acclimated individuals) baby birds can be banded when they're only a few days old as their legs are already adult size. What to do with baby birds.
- Banding gives us a ton of large-scale demographic info that help us understand climat change.
- It also tells us that the very first bird caught in the very first net at our station is still kicking it on the Sanctuary four years later. Shout out to Chickadee 003!
Do something nice for yourself and look for bird banding demos (or even better, volunteering opportunities) at an Audubon or wildlife sanctuary near you. The kids will love it, and you may find it surprisingly therapeutic.
posted by Freyja at 10:01 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I should make a correction, too: Wisdom is at least 67 years old, because she was already a fully mature adult when first banded, but it is possible that she is years older than that. Humans don't actually know how long Laysan albatrosses can potentially live -- that is one of the things Wisdom is helping us understand.
posted by tavella at 10:16 AM on February 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

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