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65-year-old Laysan albatross hatches 40th chick

By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 10, 2016 at 3:20 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Late last year, the world's oldest tagged bird became pregnant and laid an egg. This month, Wisdom, the 65-year-old Laysan albatross, broke her own record for the oldest bird to birth a chick.

The new chick was born at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, host to the world's largest albatross nesting colony. Biologists there named the baby bird Kukini, a Hawaiian word for messenger.

Researchers believe Wisdom has hatched and raised at least 40 chicks in her lifetime -- eight since 2006.

Kukini was first observed making her way out of her shell on February 1. Now entirely free of her shell, and more than a week old, Kukini remains under the close watch of mom and dad. Wildlife officials have seen Wisdom and her mate taking turns flying from their nest to the sea and back, retrieving fish to feed their newborn.

Wisdom spent most of yesterday sleeping while she kept Kūkini warm in a drizzling rain. Today, both got to know each...

Posted by Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument on Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Her longevity has forced Wisdom to find new mates as old ones die, but she hasn't slowed down much.

"We're learning what these birds are capable of doing at what we consider to be an advanced age," said Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. "She lays her eggs and raises her chicks. Common sense says at some point she would become too old for this."

Perhaps as impressive as her reproductive success is her lengthy flight log. Scientist say since Wisdom was first tagged in 1956 she has logged at least three million miles. Most of those miles are logged flying over the ocean, as albatrosses only take to the land to breed and nest.

"That is up to six trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again," Peterjohn said. "What is also miraculous is that biologist Chandler Robbins, who banded her as a breeding adult in 1956 on Midway Atoll, sighted her 46 years later near the same nesting location."

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