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Oldest Living Birds - Wisdom the Albatross: Mom At Age 67, And Top 10 Oldest Birds

Updated on March 19, 2016
A Laysan Albatross in the South Pacific.
A Laysan Albatross in the South Pacific.

Wisdom Is Still Parenting

The Earth's oldest observed wild bird, Wisdom, was seen at Midway at "Pihemanu" ("loud din of birds"), a gathering placer for wild birds of Hawaii. She and her mate, Akeakamai ("Love of Wisdom"), were seen on 11/21/2016, caring for a new egg. Her baby was named Kukini and her name means "messenger."

Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

A
Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge:
Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaii 96850, USA

get directions

President Teddy Roosevelt declared the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a federally protected seabird reserve in 1909 in order to save wildlife.

Western Hawaii

A
Hawaiian Islands:
Hawaiian Islands

get directions

Lifespan of Birds

How old can birds live? Parrots are famously known for longevity, to ages 60 and 70 and even older. People joke that they must mention younger parrots in their wills for caretaking.

Which species of bird can live the longest? US Fish and Game officials found a 60-year-old Laysan albatross (Gooney Bird) in February, seemingly surprised at her longevity. She had been banded for tracking eight times since 1956 and still hatching eggs.

She hatched a chick on Midway Atoll near Hawaii in mid-February 2011 before the earthquake and tsunami disaster struck Japan. This is the now-famous Wisdom the albatross. She hatched her single chick near Hawaii and was transported out by officials after the tsunami splashed onto the Pacific Islands. After that danger passed, she and her chick were returned to their natural habitat. In early 2013, she had her 35th chick hatched live.


Wisdom the Laysan Albatross

Wisdom the Albatross on February 11, 2011 on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
Wisdom the Albatross on February 11, 2011 on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. | Source

Other Rescued Birds

This is a Bonin Petrel stuck in the sand and rescued after the tsunami left Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
This is a Bonin Petrel stuck in the sand and rescued after the tsunami left Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

Gooneys

The Columbus Zoological Garden and Aquarium tells us that the Laysan albatross lives in the seas around the Central Pacific Islands, around the Bering Sea, and near the Aleutian Islands off Alaska. They grow to a size of about 6-8 pounds, although Wisdom is said to weigh 8 pounds. Chicks resemble those of penquins in the Antarctic.

Wing spans top 2 meters and facilitate long glides in which the birds are thought to sometimes sleep. Otherwise, they sleep sitting on the water, catch fish, and go to land only to breed by way of very odd mating danced. In fact, Johnny Carson showed film of the "Goony Birds" each year in his later years on the Tonight Show, along with presenting bird calling competition teams from high schools.

Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

A
Midway Atoll, Wake Island:
Midway Atoll, Wake Island

get directions

B
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument:
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument, USA

get directions

C
Hawaii:
Hawaii, USA

get directions

In the year 2000, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge was designated the Battle of Midway National Memorial.

Wisdom's 2014 Chick

The Largest Nature Preserve in America

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is approximately 140,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean that is protected by the USA as a conservation and national memorial to the Pacific Ocean habitat. It includes Midway Atoll on Wake Island and its national wildlife refuge, all the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and the Laysan albatross population, along with the remaining animals, plants, and natural elements. The land portions of the monument are held by the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

This large conservation area is important to local native animals and plants, sea life, the history of cultures around Hawaii, and a number of artifacts from different archaeological eras.

All of these elements can be studied to help determine migration paths of humans, cultures, and animals for severral thousand years. Special guided tours are offered in these areas for visitors to observe the Laysan albatross and additional activities are regularly offered.

Albatross Chicks Rescued from the Tsunami on Eastern Island

North Pacific

A
Bering Sea:
Bering Sea

get directions

B
Aluetian Islands:
Aleutian Islands, Aleutians East, AK, USA

get directions

Oldest Bird In the North

News stories in March 2011 reported what Wisdom the albatross was the world's oldest bird, then the Northern Hemisphere's oldest bird. The news was quick to report without fact checking, I think, because I myself have met a parrot in the past that was in its 70s and I believe there are some parrots of that age somewhere now. Be that as it may, Wisdom's 60 or more years make a respectable age achievement and she still looks very young.

Lifespan Research

In July 2004, authors Jason Munshi-South and Gerald Wilkinson of the University of Maryland published a research document about parrot lifespans and the effects on them of diet and nutrition. They published in The Auk 123(1):108–118, 2006.

These researches found a total of 162 different parrot species at the time and additional species may have been discovered between 2004 - 2011, undoubtedly so. The two men examined over 350 parrots, discovering that their combined diet, nutrition, and behaviors resulted in extremely long lifespans for free, wild individuals.

The results are rather complex, but an overiding notable finding to my eye is that seed-eating parrots seem to live longer than those that are omniverous or eat from nectar and fruit sources. Still, the longest average age found among the parrot groups was under 20 years.

I think parrots in captivity, if allowed freedom from small cages, must experience many health benefits. although any captivity may still be too confining. Yet, that I have met a few 70+ year-old parrots on more than one occasion. Perhaps they were special cases.   

Top 10 Oldest Bird Species Logged by US Geological Survey

  1. Laysan Albatross - Wisdom. Over 65+ years in February 2016.
  2. Black-footed Albatross - 40 years 8 months
  3. Great Frigatebird - 38 years 2 months
  4. White Tern - 35 years 11 months
  5. Sooty Tern - 35 years 10 months
  6. Wandering Albatross - 34 years 7 months
  7. Arctic Tern - 34 years
  8. Red-tailed Tropicbird - 32 years 8 months
  9. Black-browed Albatross - 32 years 5 months
  10. Atlantic Puffin - 31 years 11 months

These birds are wild species and domesticated birds may live longer. Various parrot species might be among these longer-lived groups. Public records and the Guinness Book of Records indicate that the trained cockatoo that appeared on the TV show Baretta lived past 80 years of age (actor William Shatner became 80 in March 2011, by the way); and the oldest bird thus far has been a Siberian white crane that reached 82 years, but had no documentation attached to its life span.

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    • profile image

      Tymepassages 

      6 years ago

      Wisdom is attributed as the oldest living bird specifically because she lives in the wild, with all the hazards of weather, pollution and predators that wild birds face. Reading through other sites on Wisdom, there are studies cited that report that wild parrot populations do no achieve the long lifespan of the albatross. So although there are captive parrots of 70+ years, their protected environment and veterinary care do not allow them into the longevity stats. Though it DOES show the potential. Wonder what the albatross numbers would be if they were protected from the hazards of environment?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      That's very encouraging! Thank you very much!

    • ArtzGirl profile image

      ArtzGirl 

      7 years ago from San Diego

      Fabulous hub Patty! The Census hub, the hub on Global Issues, and now this!!! You continue to bring new levels of education to each and every topic that you cover! I'm so glad to have stumbled across your writing! Very Cool!

    • profile image

      computer guy 

      7 years ago

      Great article: I had know idea birds could live this long. I hope I can make it that far.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for taking time to post all your lovely comments. This was fun to write.

    • Purple Perl profile image

      Purple Perl 

      7 years ago from Bangalore,India

      I have read so much about the albatross and am yet to see one in flight. I have seen them in movies too, but want to see one in flight. Hope to some day. Thanks for sharing another brilliant hub, Patty.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      7 years ago from Northern, California

      LOL! Let me know when I should call my travel agent to arrange a trip! They have internet there right? ;)

      K9

    • Marian Designs profile image

      Marian Cates 

      7 years ago from Columbia River Gorge, WA

      Fabulous article, beautifully illustrated! I'm a real bird-lover, so I found this, not only interesting, but fun to read. I'm going to recommend this to my nature photographer friends.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I thought Wisdom looks to be 5 years young. Great bird, Key9! We should go visit!

    • sincerely25 profile image

      sincerely25 

      7 years ago from United States

      This is some very interest info. I love birds--great hub!

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      7 years ago

      Any way you spell it Patty, this is a GREAT Hub!

      Blessings always, EarthAngel!

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 

      7 years ago from Yorkshire

      Nice hub Patty, I enjoyed the read.

      cheers Tony

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      7 years ago from Wales

      A great hub ! I enjoy reading hubs on wildlife,animals,nature so this one was a treat.

      Thanks for sharing and take care

      Eiddwen.

    • profile image

      Rice & Cheese 

      7 years ago

      Cheese and rice.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      7 years ago from Northern, California

      I love this article! Wisdom the Albatross is so beautiful and doesn't look a day over 30! What a special group of creatures these flight gifted birds are; I could watch them soar all day long. What a treasure it would be to be a part of the Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument team, a virtuous group to say the least. Thanks for another quality content article. Always a joy to read your work Patty.

      K9

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      What, you don't like my writing accent?? Thanks, I'll change that, Romano :)

    • Romano Arnesto profile image

      Romano Arnesto 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      Loved the albatross. They're dubbed as scavengers of the sea, and helps maintain the balance of the ecology (please check your title: ablatross. it should be albatross). Thanks for sharing, Patty!

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