Wisdom has soared through the terms of 12 presidents and is still soaring over the Pacific Ocean. Read her story here.
Around the time President Truman was starting his second full term, or perhaps just a little before, a Layson albatross chick emerged from her egg on Midway Atoll. She would become a celebrity and be given the name Wisdom.
Wisdom is famous for staying alive so incredibly long. Twelve presidents later, she still flaps her long graceful wings over the Pacific Ocean looking for food for herself and her chick. It is estimated that she has traveled 3 million miles in her life.
She is a new mother again for the 40th time. She is at least 65 years old. She is the oldest known bird of any kind in the wild. And she has hatched another chick at 65 plus years old!
Wisdom was first banded by a 38 year old scientist, Chandler Robbins, in 1956. She was presumed to be around 5 at the time and in her first year of breeding. The same scientist discovered her again in 2002 when he returned in his 80s to the same area. Wisdom was 46 then. In 2006 she was retagged with the number Z333 around both legs and given the name of Wisdom.
Wisdom's last chick hatched on February 1st, 2016. At the time of this writing she is probably busy fishing for that chick and feeding him on the nest. He should be ready to fledge in the next couple of months.
It astounds me that a giant bird like Wisdom that spends most of her life on the ocean could live so long. That she could live through so many gales. That she could avoid being by-catch in a giant sea trawler's net. That she could travel all those miles looking for food for herself and her chick and not succumb to hunger or exhaustion. That she has not filled her belly up yet with too many undigestible objects from the flotsam and jetsam of human trash at sea. That she has closed her eyes for so many nights upon the ocean's surface with out becoming prey.
Mostly I am amazed that a bird like Wisdom does not die sooner from the stress of such a life. Of missing her chicks, being alone, finding enough food and staying safe from danger.
I think then of the albatross chicks. The start of it all. The beginning of becoming an albatross. The chicks sit alone for days on their little rounded duffs, legs often kicked out in front of them. Like a baby in a high chair, they sit, alone in their round, boosted up nests waiting to be fed. They wait through storms, often hungry. Waiting for food. Waiting for their mother's return. Waiting to become big enough and strong enough to fly. Waiting for their feathers to change. Just waiting for days. Undefended. Vulnerable. Any number of things can happen to them.
I wonder if their minds become strong and zen as they sit there. Do they learn an albatross type of meditation as they endure and wait upon the nest for changes to come to them? Do they learn early lessons that calm the brain and teach them how to deal with stressful situations?
Are albatross long lived because the ones who have fledged and made it to the sea have been not only strong of body but also strong of mind?
Albatrosses mate for life. They are the only bird with 100% loyalty to their mates. But if a mate dies they will seek out a new mate. An older albatross will seek out a mate with experience. They value age. They seem to know that experience equals wisdom. And Wisdom equals survival.
Video of Wisdom and her last chick.