Old bird lays egg at 60

Old bird lays egg at 60

Researchers call her Wisdom, and at 60 years of age she was recently found sitting on an egg on Midway Atoll, an island in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.

In fact, researchers didn't recognise her as the old gray dame of the isle at first, because she just didn't look the part. Not a trace of gray in the feathers, and no tiredness around the eyes.

"That is part of the amazing thing about this," said Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the US Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. "Fifty-five years after she was initially banded, she looks the same.

"Here is a bird that is a minimum 60 years old and basically hasn't changed and can go very readily and raise and produce young," he said.

Most albatrosses on islands in the northwest Hawaiian chain seem to live 30-40 years.
"Based on the banding data we have, she seems to be a fairly exceptional age," he said.
"This is well beyond the average lifespan of an albatross."

That means she has probably outlived at least a couple of mates, though researchers cannot say for sure because they have no way to track her partners over time.
Peterjohn said she has likely raised about 30 chicks in her life.

He said researchers have known about the long-lived white bird since 2002, when they went back to their records after re-banding her and found that she had been first tagged by researcher Chandler Robbins in 1956.

Robbins is a well-known bird expert, now aged 92, and is the author of the bestselling
book "Birds of North America: A Guide To Field Identification."

He said he did not know the bird by sight the last time he saw her.

"I didn't recognise it when I recaptured it in 2002 because it didn't have my bands on it, it had other people's bands," Robbins said.

"And it wasn't until I got back to the office and checked the bands that I discovered it was one of mine from way back. So I didn't even take a picture of it at that time."

Peterjohn said researchers soon realised they had tracked the oldest known albatross in North America, and that she was probably about 52 years old in 2002.