HomeOutdoorsNewsWorld’s Oldest Known Seabird Loses Mate of 60 Years

World’s Oldest Known Seabird Loses Mate of 60 Years

by Amy Myers
(Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The world’s oldest living seabird, the 71-year-old albatross known as Wisdom, has returned to her native nesting ground, but unfortunately, her mate is nowhere in sight. Back in 1965, biologists first banded the Laysan albatross, and ever since, they’ve kept a close eye on her nesting, breeding and migrating habits. For the past several decades, she has returned to Midway Atoll every year to rejoin her unnamed mate. Sadly, though, it appears that her seabird mate may have died.

Laysan albatrosses are native to the north Pacific and spend most of their lives at sea, returning to their original nesting grounds only to continue the cycle and raise their chicks before returning back to the water. Most Laysan albatrosses choose the northern Hawaiian islands for their home base, and 70 percent reunite with their mates on Midway Atoll, making the area an oasis for these beautiful seabirds.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific, typically, male albatrosses are the first to arrive at the yearly nesting ground. On Thanksgiving Day, Wisdom the seabird made her long-awaited appearance at Midway Atoll, but she was alone. This is the second year that Wisdom’s mate has not shown up, leading biologists to suspect that the 60-year courtship has come to a tragic end.

Oldest Living Seabird May Find Another Mate

Previously, the USFWS Pacific released a statement, determining Wisdom’s age. According to the Service, when biologists first banded Wisdom, she had already laid eggs. Laysan albatrosses don’t breed before the age of five, meaning the seabird is at least 71 years old.

“We think Laysan albatrosses live for around 40 years, but it’s difficult to know for certain as most birds can’t be accurately aged past the juvenile stage, so we rely on ringing records to estimate lifespan. But even accounting for a bit of uncertainty in that, Wisdom is probably exceptionally old and is the oldest known wild bird of any species,” Natasha Gillies, a seabird researcher at the University of Liverpool in the U.K., told Newsweek.

It’s possible that this may mean the end of the famous seabird’s egg-yielding years, but the Service also stated that Wisdom may very well find another male to mate with in the coming years.

“Albatrosses are socially monogamous and ‘mate for life’—but that doesn’t mean they won’t re-pair if a partner dies or disappears,” Tim Birkhead, a behavioral ecology professor at the University of Sheffield in the U.K., told the outlet.

But the process of finding a new mate will take a while. Initially, Laysan albatrosses will take several years to find a mate before choosing each other for the rest of their lives. In order to form a bond, these seabirds also have to engage in a complex ritual of strange dance moves. Gillies added that Wisdom’s advanced age may also decrease her chances of raising any fledglings, as she’ll be less fertile as mating seasons come and go.