The fascinating life of Wisdom, the world's oldest known wild bird
The Laysan Albatros survived many current threads like fish-lines, climate change, and plastic pollution.
In 1956, a young albatross received a red ankle band with the number Z333, as part of a long-term research project that has identified more than 260,000 individual albatross since the late 1930s. By now, that albatross has become famous as the world's oldest known wild bird. She is named Wisdom, and in early March this year, many of the world's newspapers enthusiastically reported that she had hatched another chick at Midway Atoll in the Hawaiian archipelago.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's office in the Pacific Islands reported the news and added that she had laid her egg sometime during the last few days of November. Albatrosses share their parental duties, so once Wisdom had laid her egg, she left it in the skilled care of her partner Akeakamai and started foraging over the ocean. They know the routine; the pair have been hatching and raising chicks together for about a decade. There have been lifelong lovers of Wisdom before, but she has found new partners once she survived them.
Wisdom has become a celebrity among bird lovers, and researchers are fascinated by her longevity and the number of young she raised. USFWS estimated Wisdom must have hatched more than 30 chicks in her lifetime. Every year she returns to her same nest on one of the three tiny coral islands that form the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge; it is the world's largest colony of albatrosses. Sailing above the oceans with her more than six-foot-wide wingspan, she must have an incredible mileage under her wings.
The risks of plastic pollution and fish lines
But life for an albatross is not just binge flying over the oceans; they need wisdom and luck to survive the classic risks like tsunamis and hungry sharks. And in the last decades, new, deadly threats have emerged, like plastic pollutions, fishing lines, climate change, and warming oceans.
Why do I write about Wisdom today? I am counting down the last 52 days of the year by recalling one event of each week of this year. Today was Week 9, the first week of March, and this was the news fact I wanted to highlight.
I have grown fond of Wisdom since first reading about her, and I admire the beauty of all albatrosses. Wisdom's story in Week nine of becoming a mother again touched many people. It also shows how much we still have to learn. Every day, many species of animals and plants die out before scientists even have the time to research them properly. For example, nobody expected Laysan albatrosses to grow older than 40 until Wisdom showed them that at 70, or perhaps even older, she is still healthy and producing new chicks. Her story is also about habitat destruction in the oceans and how we protect them on the islands.
Above all, my admiration for the beauty of nature increases further when I get to know one individual a bit better; Wisdom has become a kind of far away friend for many, a celebrity with fans all over the world. And her fans are fans of the planet.
Meanwhile, in Ottawa:
It was a beautiful week in early March with fresh snow and blue skies. The cold is unlike the winters I know from the Netherlands; although colder, it is a dryer and, therefore, more bearable cold. It reminds me of winter sport in the Alps. I made a shorter than two-minute video to give an impression of the beauty of snow, blue skies, and trees with a layer of white.
Most of you will read this on Saturday, wishing you all a lovely weekend.