(Photo Jodie Spross/USFWS – Pacific Region)
Pictured is Wisdom, the world’s oldest known living wild bird, incubating her newest egg in December 2017. Behind her you can see her life partner Akeakamai – otherwise known as Mr Goo – who is dutifully taking his fair share of egg-sitting with his venerable spouse.
Every year for over 6 decades this amazing lady has flown thousands of miles to return to the same nesting site in Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, and has successfully raised more than 30 chicks.
“Because Laysan albatross don’t lay eggs every year and when they do, they raise only one chick at a time, the contribution of even one bird to the population makes a difference,” says Bob Peyton of the USFWS.
This matters because although Midway hosts 400,000 breeding pairs which sounds like a lot, and despite an expanding population, “they are still susceptible to entanglement in fishing lines and plastic ingestion, which killed an estimated 15,000 birds in 1990. The species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List.”
It takes nigh on 7 months incubating and caring for the chick until he/she fledges, and those long months hold many challenges, dangers and uncertainties. It needs 100% care from both parents. That means both need to be lucky enough not to get tangled in fishing lines and nets. And even if both mum and dad survive, many chicks die when parents mistake plastic objects like cigarette lighters, toothbrushes and fishing floats, for food, and bring them back to the nest along with the flying fish eggs that are the chick’s staple diet. Yes, even in this Pacific paradise our plastic habit is killing animals.
That, and considering also the millions of flying miles Wisdom has clocked up over her long and illustrious life, make her maternal achievements all the more remarkable. Very probably unique. Could it be Wisdom the Laysan albatross that has given us the expression, “she’s a wise old bird”?😄
Long may you flourish Wisdom and Mr Goo, and continue gracing the world with your beautiful offspring.
The BBC’s comprehensive overview of the plastic pollution problem
Ten tips for living with less plastic
And these adorable albatross chicks are just a couple of the animals at stake