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This 66-Year-Old Bird Is Still Having Chicks, Is an Inspiration to Us All

Time to take some notes from Wisdom the albatross.

This bird is hella old. She's lived through 12 presidencies, the Civil Rights movement, a handful of wars, the invention of the internet and a lot of bullshit in between, including surviving a tsunami. For good reason, she's named Wisdom, because whatever she's doing, she's been doing it right.

In certain ornithology circles, Wisdom—a Laysan albatross—is a celebrity: She's the oldest banded bird in the wild, living in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in Hawaii. Birds are caught and "banded" with a small metal or plastic tag around one leg, then released back into the wild. The band numbers help scientists track individual's movements and study the species as a whole.


The average lifespan of this species is 12-64 years, but that's including Wisdom's skewing the numbers: Before she got to be so damn old, it topped out at 40.

At the turn of the century, albatrosses were "slaughtered by the thousands and feathers were sold at high cost to adorn ladies hats in Europe," according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. This prompted Theodore Roosevelt to designate the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as one of the first federally protected seabird reserves in the country, in 1909.

Scientists estimate that Wisdom has brought several dozen chicks into this cruel, wonderful world over the course of her lifetime. They think she's back at it now, with reports of sightings earlier this month, of her back in her nest. She disappears for solitary hunting trips for a month at a time, but always returns to Midway—as occasionally does the man who originally banded her, biologist Chandler Robbins, who is now 98 years old.

Correction: The headline of this story originally said the albatross was pregnant, which was cute but incorrect. Birds cannot get "pregnant," which the story itself did not state (rather, they become "gravid"—with eggs). We've corrected the headline, and apologize for any confusion.

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