U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials have announced that Wisom, the oldest living wild bird known to scientists, has returned to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge after fears that the tsunami may have killed the 60-year-old Laysan albatross along with thousands of other sea birds. Officials believe the tsunami killed an estimated 110,000 Laysan and black-footed albatross chicks and 2,000 adults.
"Although wildlife biologists generally manage at the level of populations," said Barry Stieglitz, Project Leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, "we, too, become entwined in the fates of individual animals. Wisdom is one such special creature. She has provided us valuable information about the longevity of these beautiful birds and reinforces the importance of breeding adults in the population. It's also very humbling to know this 8-pound bird has been producing chicks longer than I have been alive."
The Refuge’s other “celebrity” albatross’ fate remains uncertain. The parents of the short-tailed albatross chick hatched on Midway’s Eastern Island in January have yet to be seen. The chick – the first of its species hatched at Midway – was washed approximately 100 feet from its nest, but was later found by biologists. Since the chick is incapable of fending for itself, scientists will carefully consider whether hand-rearing this bird is appropriate if it is determined that it is not being fed by its parents. It is believed these parents may still be at sea gathering food for their chick.