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02/13/2013

Wisdom, the 62-year-old albatross with a Facebook page, hatches chick

AlbatrossA 62-year old albatross named Wisdom, the world's oldest known wild bird, hatched a chick this month, delighting her many followers. 

Wisdom is a Laysan albatross, whose usual lifespan is around 50 years.

Even more impressively, most female albatrosses take a year off in between incubating successive eggs.  But Wisdom has nested for six consecutive years now. She may have hatched 35 chicks in her lifetime. 

(You can leave a note of congratulations on her Facebook page.)

"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," Bruce Peterjohn said in a statement. Peterjohn is chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at the US Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Another researcher called her an inspiration and a "symbol of hope for her species." Albatross are a threatened species; waterborne plastic debris that is unwittingly fed to chicks is a factor.

Wisdom hatched her chick in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, an tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Japan.

She survived the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Thousands of other birds died when the tsunami washed over the atoll.

Wisdom's trackers think she may be even older than 62. When she was first banded in 1956, she was incubating an egg, so researchers guessed she was 5 -- the youngest age albatrosses breed. But most don't start breeding until 8 or 9 years old, meaning Wisdom could be 66.

Kate Allen is the Toronto Star’s global science and technology reporter. Follow her on Twitter @katecallen

 

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