In December, 2014, EarthSky reported that a Laysan albatross named Wisdom – said to be the world’s oldest known, banded, wild bird at an estimated age of 63 – had been photographed incubating her newest egg. Wisdom returns to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial each year to nest and raise her chicks. She lays only one egg a year. This month, though (February 2015), the Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument reported on its Facebook page:
To Wisdom Lovers Far and Wide:
There comes a time when nature reminds us when there is life, there is death. In January, 2015 Deputy Refuge Manager Bret Wolfe observed Wisdom, the world’s oldest known albatross, sitting on her nest without an egg, (she and her mate were both sharing incubation duties for most of December 2014).
So what’s up with the missing egg? Of the over 694,000 albatross nests counted on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge during December 2014 a percentage of those nests with eggs have not hatched and some eggs have disappeared. The island’s natural egg predators such the ruddy turnstones or bristle-thighed curlews can actually take eggs that are not closely attended. Cockroaches and other scavengers such as mice can quickly move in to clean house and devour shell remnants of damaged eggs. When this happens the albatross pair abandons their nest and tries again next year. Additionally, Laysan albatross occasionally skip a year or even two as they use their precious energy resources to complete a full molt while at sea or simply take a breather to replenish their energy after accomplishing an exhaustive seven-month incubation and chick rearing effort. Wisdom and her mate have been sighted and they appear to be fine. Don’t forget that Wisdom has maintained a record-breaking track record for rearing chicks beyond an age that humans understood was possible. We are therefore hopeful Wisdom and her mate will return next year to start nature’s cycle of rearing chick number 30 something!
For more information and photos visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Midway_Atoll/
Bottom line: People around the world cheered in late 2014, when an albatross named Wisdom – world’s oldest known, banded, wild bird at an estimated age of 63 – laid a new egg. Now nature reminds us that life and death go hand in hand.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.