Oldest known U.S. albatross hatches new chick

Wed Mar 9, 2011 10:22am EST
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By Jorene Barut

HONOLULU (Reuters Life!) - The oldest known free-flying bird in the United States, a roughly 60-year-old albatross named Wisdom, hatched her chick weeks ago on Sand Island at Midway, wildlife officials reported.

The sea bird's advanced age may be double or triple the expected life span for a Laysan albatross, but biologists are still gathering information and learning about the species.

Wisdom holds the record as the oldest wild specimen documented during the 90-year history of the U.S. and Canadian bird-banding research program.

A U.S. Geological Survey scientists first tagged the bird with an aluminum identification band when she was about 5 years old in 1956 as she was incubating an egg.

Since then, the albatross has logged about 3 million flying miles (4.8 million(, the equivalent of six round trips to the Moon.

"It's really exciting to see that these birds are long-living and still raising chicks at 60 years old or older," said John Klavitter, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, who spotted Wisdom with her chick in February.

Sand Island is the largest piece of land in the Midway Atoll, a tiny U.S. territory that lies about a third of the way between Honolulu and Tokyo in the North Pacific.

"It's a nice success story for wildlife and conservationists," Klavitter told Reuters in a telephone interview from Midway.   Continued...