The United States Fish & Wildlife Service is breathing a collective sigh of relief after the world's oldest banded wild bird returned to a wildlife refuge to mate.
Laysan albatross Wisdom was first banded by renowned ornithologist Chandler Robbins in 1956, and is estimated to be at least 64 years old. She has since "nested consecutively" at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, a USFWS facility in the northern Pacific Ocean that houses the world's largest albatross colony.
Based on decades of observations, the Service believes that Wisdom has raised three dozen chicks and logged more than six million miles of ocean flight time.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) population was devastated by the commercial driftnet fishery, which killed an estimated 17,500 Laysan albatross in the year 1990 alone. In recent years, however, improvements in "seabird avoidance measures" have drastically reduced the amount of albatross caught as bycatch, and the once-plummeting population has begun to stabilize.
The IUCN currently classifies the species as Near Threatened, citing plastic ingestion and human disturbance as continuing threats.
"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," Refuge Manager Dan Clark said in a USFWS blog post.
"We are a part of the fate of Wisdom and it is gratifying to see her return because of the decades of hard work conducted to manage and protect albatross nesting habitat."
Article first appeared on Discovery's blog Dscovrd.