She outlived the scientist who first ringed her in the mid-50s.

Ward with Egg Photo by USFWS
Ward with Egg Photo by USFWS

Scientists at the National Reserve on Midway Island reported that an albatross female named Ward (Wisdom) returned to its former nesting place and laid an egg. She was first identified as an adult in 1956, and although she is at least 68 years old, she still gives offspring.

Wisdom and her regular partner Akeakamai return to the same section of Midway Atoll every year. They have been together since 2006 and once a season the female lays an egg, which they hatch in turn.

In 1956, Wisdom was ringed by a biologist named Chandler Robbins. It was his first season on the atoll, at that time the strategic outpost of the United States, and the bird did not have a name – it was one of the hundreds of thousands of its tribesmen returning to Midway, and one of 8.4 thousand albatros ringed that year. 46 years later, Robbins examined the same nesting site and saw a number that he had put down almost half a century ago.

Chandler Robbins rides an albatross on Moudoue Atoll. Scientist died in 2017 USFFWS photo
Chandler Robbins rides an albatross on Moudoue Atoll. Scientist died in 2017 USFFWS photo

Scientists do not rule out that Ward is not really the oldest wild bird – the fact is that aluminum rings that are put on the legs of albatrosses can become unusable in about 20 years due to sea water and sand. But they are sure that Ward is the same bird that Robbins ringed, as in her group the shabby rings were constantly replaced with new ones.

In 2017, not far from the wizard’s current nest, researchers noticed her chick hatching in 2001 — this was the first documented case of its kind.

Midoway Atoll is not just a nesting place for millions of birds, it is a nesting place for countless generations and families of albatrosses. Imagine returning home to Wisdom, likely to be surrounded by its raised chicks and their chicks. What a family reunion!

Kelly goodale
biologist
Reserve staff ring one of the wisdom chicks. USFWS photo
Reserve staff ring one of the wisdom chicks. USFWS photo

Studies of the albatrosses on Midaway help ornithologists and biologists to understand the complex life cycles and migration patterns of birds around the world. This information helps researchers make decisions that ensure that seabirds have future habitats and resources necessary for survival.