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Wisdom, the 65 Year Old Wonder on Midway Atoll

By Wayne Sentman

Wisdom feeds her chick in March of 2011. © Wayne Sentman

Wisdom the albatross is 15 years my senior. And we have been friends since at least 2002. That is the year I moved off of Midway Atoll, after having lived there for four years. Right before I left Midway I had the opportunity to meet Chandler Robbins and watch him, at 84 years old, down on all fours banding adult Laysan Albatrosses solo. I was impressed at his technique and his determination to make sure that any albatross walking around with an older band was re-banded. It was during Chan's visit in 2002 that he re-encountered a female Laysan Albatross that he had banded 46 years earlier, in 1956, as a 40 year old man. That bird would later be named Wisdom and I would find myself following her over the next 14 years as she gained more and more notoriety around the globe as the oldest known seabird.

Today Wisdom is at least 65 years old (she was banded as an adult at an unknown age). As I write, she is with her mate on Sand Island at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge incubating an egg! Yes, that is correct, Wisdom is still producing chicks at 65 years old.

If all goes well, Wisdom and her mate's egg should be hatching as I post this. (Stay tuned for updates from the USFWS. Also, there is a contest to name Wisdom's mate with the winning name to be made public soon—follow @hawaiireef on Twitter.)

You can help Wisdom and her many progeny by adopting an Albatross chick from Midway Atoll through Oceanic Society. Funds from your adoption go to support seabird habitat conservation on Midway, and marine plastic pollution awareness. This program is conducted in partnership with the Friends of Midway Atoll and the Kure Atoll Conservancy. In addition to Wisdom and her family, more than 70% of the world's Laysan Albatross population call Midway home. There are few better ways to support the conservation of albatross than by making that the world's largest albatross colony has the proper habitat available on their breeding sites.

Adopt an Albatross today!


Wayne Sentman is our director of conservation travel programs and an Oceanic Society naturalist since 1998. He is an experienced guide with a diverse background in marine mammal, seabird, and marine debris research. Wayne also co-teaches undergraduate field programs in Kenya on human-wildlife conflict and on the use of social media and art to raise public participation in conservation. He recently received a Master's in Environmental Management from Harvard University.


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