The albatross is a family of large seabirds which live in the in the Southern Ocean and the Northern Pacific. They are not present in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Most agree there are 22 species of albatrosses in 4 genera, of which 19 are threatened with extinction.

Great albatrosses (Diomedea)
Wandering Albatross D. exulans
Antipodean Albatross D. (exulans) antipodensis
Amsterdam Albatross D. (exulans) amsterdamensis
Tristan Albatross D. (exulans) dabbenena
Northern Royal Albatross D. (epomorpha) sanfordi
Southern Royal Albatross D. epomophora

North Pacific albatrosses (Phoebastria)
Waved Albatross P. irrorata
Short-tailed Albatross P. albatrus
Black-footed Albatross P. nigripes
Laysan Albatross P. immutabilis

Mollymawks (Thalassarche)
Black-browed Albatross T. melanophris
Campbell Albatross T. (melanophris) impavida
Shy Albatross T. cauta
White-capped Albatross T. steadi
Chatham Albatross T. (cauta) eremita
Salvin’s Albatross T. (cauta) salvini
Grey-headed Albatross T. chrysostoma
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. chlororhynchos
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross T. (chlororhynchos) carteri
Buller’s Albatross T. bulleri

Sooty albatrosses (Phoebetria)
Sooty Albatross P. fusca
Light-mantled Albatross P. palpebrata.


Wisdom is a Laysan Albatross, Phoebastria immutabilis
The Laysan Albatross is best known for its gliding flight, awkward landings, and elaborate courtship rituals. These birds spend nearly half the year at sea, not touching land until breeding season. Though large for a seabird, the Laysan is small for an albatross. They may live more than 40 years. These birds are named for Laysan, one of their Hawaiian island breeding colonies. There are over 450,000+ nesting pairs on Midway Atoll.

Born: Unknown, presumed Midway Atoll, c. 1950.
Weight: about 8 lbs.
Wingspan: about 6 ½ feet (77-80 inches)

The Midway Atoll is visited by almost two million birds every year. US President G.W. Bush designated the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.


January – late January, Laysan albatross chicks start to hatch
February – by end of month, all chicks have hatched
March – chicks starting to wander from nest
April – chicks continue to grow and become more adventurous
May – chicks show some adult feathers
June – chicks almost full grown; some adults leaving island
July – more juvenile Laysan albatrosses are fledging, and only a few adults remain on the atoll.
August – by early August, all juvenile Laysan albatross have flown
September – no Laysan albatrosses on island
October – late October, first Laysan albatrosses return
November – most return; by late November, some eggs are laid
December – most eggs are laid this month


Laysan Albatross Mating Dance

If you can’t see this video, click here.

Albatross Lays an Egg. Eggs are about the size of a Coke can.

If you can’t see this video, click here.

This video shows Wisdom feeding her 2011 chick, N333.
If you can’t see this, click here.

Fledgling Laysan Albatross is learning to fly.
If you can’t see this video, click here.

Shark attacks and kills a fledgling albatross.

If you can’t see this video, click here.

For most of its life the albatross flies. In Wisdom’s 60+ years, it is estimated she has flown about 50,000 miles each year, for a total of about 2 to 3 million miles in her lifetime.

If you can’t see this video, click here.


1866 First celluloid manufacture
1912 Bakelite plastics manufactured
1930s plastic becoming common in many areas
1938 Laysan Albatross bird count 200,000 (Leary)
1942, June 4-7 Battle of Midway, WWII

1947-51 Wisdom born; she’s one of 200,000 chicks that year

November 4, 1952 Kamchatka earthquake, next day tsunami hits Midway Atoll (Australian Government, Department of Meterology. FOAM: Friends of Albatrosses on Midway.)
December 10, 1956 Wisdom first banded by Chandler Robbins (presumed to be 5 years old) on Sand Island, Midway Atoll (Leary)
8/1958 Tropical storm
8/1959 Hurricane Dot

1960s First reports of seabirds eating plastic
January 20, 1966 Wisdom’s second band (Leary)
1961 – 40% of Wisdom’s rookery-mates surviving (Fisher)
1963 – 30 % of Wisdom’s rookery-mates surviving (Fisher)
1965 – 25% of Wisdom’s rookery-mates surviving (Fisher)
1967 – 20% of Wisdom’s rookery-mates surviving (Fisher)
1969 – 13% of Wisdom’s rookery-mates surviving (Fisher)

1972 First plastic garbage patch in Pacific Ocean documented (Carpenter, et. al.; Kaiser)

November 24 1982 Hurricane Iwa
February 18, 1985 Wisdom’s third band
October, 1983 Tropical Depression Raymond
1988 Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge created (Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge: About Us)

1991 Study on effect of longline fishing of albatrosses, est. thousands of albatrosses lost to longlines (Brothers)
1992 Mitigation measures for longline fishing adopted (SeaGrant Washington)
1992 Laysan Albatross bird rookery count – 425,000 (Leary)
September, 1992 Hurricane Iniki
September, 1992 Tropical Depression Orlene
March 4, 1993 Wisdom’s fourth band (Leary)
July, 1993 Tropical Depression Eugene
1996 Navy leaves Midway Atoll (Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge: Midway Base

2000 scientific studies report increased levels of plastic pollution, b/c it’s accumulative,
b/c plastic doesn’t decompose (Young,
February, 2002. Chandler Robbins returns to island and happens to find Wisdom again and
banded with 5t h band.(Leary)
2005 – plastic pollution well-documented: 177+ species ingesting plastic (Allsop,; Ryan)
2005 – plastic pollution well-documented 136+ species entangled (Allsop,; Ryan)
June 15, 2006. The Papaha-naumokua-kea Marine National Monument was created by
Presidential proclamation on June 15, 2006. It includes Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
2006 December 6, 2006 Two new bands, this time a bright red and a metal band, to make her easier to keep track of Z333 AND given the name Wisdom (Leary)
2008 – Wisdom had chick (Leary)
2009 – Wisdom had chick (Leary)

2010 – Wisdom had chick. (Leary)
2011 Laysan Albatross population about 1.5 million (Leary)
2011 – Wisdom had chick (Leary)

March 11, 2011 Tohoku, Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA; NOAA Center for Tsunami Research.)
Effects of tsunami on Midway Atoll: (FOAM: Friends of Albatrosses on Midway.)

26. November 2011 by Darcy Pattison
Categories: albatross | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 comments

Comments (2)

  1. Pingback: wisdom « kotobaplay

  2. Beautiful book about a wonderful bird. I love that the pictures in the book make me feel that I am back on the Midway. The message about plastics in our oceans is something for kids to think about at a young age.

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