The world's oldest known seabird, a 64-year-old Laysan albatross named Wisdom, is the mother to her 37th chick, who hatched on Feb. 1 on the remote Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, federal wildlife officials said.
The chick was named Kūkini, which is Hawaiian for "messenger." Shortly after the chick hatched, Wisdom returned to Midway Atoll to take over nesting duty from her mate, who had been keeping the egg incubated as she foraged at sea.
Federal officials said Wisdom's mate is expected to return in a week or less, because the chick will need to be be fed with a constant supply of fresh fish.
"It is very humbling to think that she has been visiting Midway for at least 64 years," Bret Wolfe, a manager at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, said in a statement announcing Wisdom's return in November. "Navy sailors and their families likely walked by her not knowing she could possibly be rearing a chick over 50 years later. She represents a connection to Midway's past as well as embodying our hope for the future."
The refuge is within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument on the atoll, a remote U.S. territory north of the Hawaiian archipelago that is about one-third of the way between Honolulu and Tokyo.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wisdom was first tagged in 1956, but because Laysan albatross do not return to breed until they are at least 5 years old, she could be older than 64.
She was spotted with a mate at the world's largest albatross nesting colony on Nov. 19 and recently returned to lay her egg, just as she has done for the past five decades.
Wildlife officials posted a video of Wisdom incubating her egg while preening with her mate.
Over the course of her life, she has logged an estimated six million ocean miles of flight time, officials said.
Laysan albatrosses typically mate for life, but since Wisdom is so old, she's likely had more than one mate and, according to refuge observers, has raised as many as 36 chicks.
Dan Clark, who also helps manage the refuge, said in a statement that Wisdom's return was a humble reminder of the need to continue to preserve the breeding grounds.
"In the face of dramatic seabird population decreases worldwide – 70% drop since the 1950’s when Wisdom was first banded — Wisdom has become a symbol of hope and inspiration."