The oldest known wild bird in the United States - a Laysan albatross estimated to be at least 60 years old - is a new mother, officials said.
The bird named Wisdom was spotted in February raising a chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Islands.
Wisdom is now the oldest wild bird documented in the 90-year history of the U.S. and Canadian bird-banding research program, the wildlife officials said.
She was first banded by U.S. Geological Survey in 1956, when she was estimated to be about five years old. Since then, the albatross has flown at least 2 to 3 million miles, the equivalent of four to six round trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again.
This means today, Wisdom is likely to be in her early sixties.
She looks great, said Bruce Peterjohn, the chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. To know that she can still successfully raise young at age 60-plus, that is beyond words.
Wisdom, Peterjohn said, has likely raised at least 30 to 35 chicks during her breeding life, though the number may well be higher because experienced parents tend to be better parents than younger breeders. Albatross lay only one egg a year, and then it takes much of a year to incubate and raise the chick.
Since adult albatross mate for life, with both parents raising the young, it makes one wonder if Wisdom has had the same partner all these years or not, he said.
Albatross are remarkable fliers who travel thousands of miles on wind currents without ever flapping their wings by angling their 6-foot wings to adjust for wind currents and varying air speeds above the water.
Laysan albatross spend their first three to five years constantly flying, never touching land. Scientists believe the birds even sleep while flying over the ocean.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 19 of 21 species of albatross are threatened with extinction due to varied reasons, including lead poisoning on Midway, longline fishing and pollution from garbage floating on the ocean.