World's Oldest-Known Bird, 72, Is Courting a New Mate After Disappearance of Long-Time Partner

Wisdom, the 72-year-old albatross residing on an island northwest of Hawai'i, is performing mating dances for potential partners

<p>Getty</p> Stock phoos of Laysan Albatross


Stock phoos of Laysan Albatross

The world's oldest living bird is seeking a new mate after she lost her lifelong partner.

According to a new update from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Columbia Pacific Northwest department, Wisdom the Laysan albatross has been actively courting males on the remote island she calls home off the northwest coast of Hawaii in the Midway Atoll.

First identified in 1956 and banded with her well-known "Z333" ring that year, Wisdom is estimated to be around 72 years old, over two decades older than the average albatross (or mōlī, as they're called in Hawai'ian).

According to the USFWS update, Wisdom has a longtime mate, Akeakamai, but the male has not yet been spotted this year and has been absent for the last two seasons.

Jonathan Plissner, a supervisory wildlife biologist at the National Wildlife Refuge, said that female albatrosses lay one egg per season in the first half of December. Wisdom has already laid her egg this season, and in Akeakamai's absence, the female bird has been spotted "participating in mating dances with a few suitors" since late November when she arrived at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge for nesting season.

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"She was still actively courting other birds in March," Plissner wrote.

According to another update from Plissner on X (formerly Twitter), Wisdom is not expected to nest this year, as many albatrosses tend to lay eggs every other year, but he did witness her mating dances — which involve a combination of dance and noises that the biologist captured on video back in November.

"She is quite spry for a septuagenarian!" he wrote.

Albatrosses and other seabirds are known to fly to the Midway Atoll every year to nest and raise their chicks — but Wisdom has been doing it longer than most birds, let alone albatrosses.

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The female bird was first banded after she laid an egg in the 1950s — "since the Eisenhower administration," as the USFWS put it — and researchers believe that most albatrosses don't mate until after age 5, making her over at least 72.

Over her lifespan, scientists estimate that she has laid anywhere from 50-60 eggs and produced as many as 30 chicks, according to Plissner. They are monogamous and mate for life, according to Hawai'i's Department of Land and Natural Resources, and spend more than half the year incubating their eggs, as they are laid in early winter and chicks fledge in July.

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Like most albatrosses, she spends her time between nesting seasons, at sea, flying thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean in search of food, often fish, fish eggs and crustaceans. Wisdom is estimated to have flown 3.5 million miles in her life — "or 7 round trips to the moon," as the USFWS reported in 2019.

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