Old But Bold: World’s Most Ancient Wild Bird Still Looking For Love

Pretty much any idea reality TV producers come up with, Mother Nature got there first. Case in point: Wisdom — a 72-year-old Laysan albatross who spent March 2024 acting out an avian edition of The Golden Bachelorette.

Wisdom’s previous long-time mate, Akeakamai, hasn’t been observed in two nesting seasons, Jonathan Plissner, supervisory wildlife biologist at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, noted. With his absence, Wisdom’s been casting about for another mate.

The albatross version of Hinge is a mating dance, and Plissner and his team at the refuge northwest of Hawaii collected photographic evidence of Wisdom engaging in the balletic courtship ritual with several single-and-looking-to-mingle young specimens. All of which would be pretty normal, if Wisdom didn’t currently hold the title of the world’s oldest wild bird.

Wisdom the Albatross

Wisdom (right) is the oldest known wild bird. Photo: Jon Plissner/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


According to Plissner, Wisdom’s vigorous courtship despite her advanced age is pretty remarkable, especially considering most albatrosses only make it into their fifties. Another interesting thing about her behavior? Albatrosses usually lay a single egg in December, so March is pretty late to bring the albatross boogie.

A fruitful life

Biologists studying the albatross population on the Midway Atoll estimate Wisdom was born in 1952, which, if you’re playing along at home, makes this albatross older than the microchip, the credit card, power steering, and McDonald’s.

Five years after hatching, Wisdom laid her own egg, and she’s been cranking along at a steady clip ever since. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates she’s laid over 60 eggs in her life and hatched about 35 chicks. Speaking of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that organization is only 12 years older than Wisdom herself.

Albatrosses spend nearly half the year gliding above the waters of the world’s oceans, sometimes going for hours without a single wing-beat. Scientists estimate that Wisdom has probably flown close to 5.6 million kilometers over the course of her long life. That’s seven trips roundtrips to the moon, according to Live Science. By the way, Wisdom pre-dates not only the moon landing but also every space program in history.

Wisdom the albatross

This one didn’t work out. Better luck next time, Wisdom! Photo: Jon Plissner/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


While researchers don’t believe Wisdom will nest or lay an egg this year, her behavior gives hope that she’ll show up to the refuge again next year — potentially with more success in the great game of love.

After all, Plissner noted on X, “she is quite spry for a septuagenarian.”

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
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