From: Jorene Barut, Reuters, HONOLULU
Published March 22, 2011 09:22 AM

Oldest wild bird in U.S. survives tsunami

(Reuters) - A 60-something albatross ranked as America's oldest free-flying bird has thrilled biologists by surviving a tsunami that struck the Pacific island where it nests, the Fish & Wildlife Service said on Monday.

The elderly bird named Wisdom and her recently hatched chick were spotted alive about a week after Sand Island in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge was struck by a 5-foot tidal wave unleashed by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit March 11 off the coast of Japan.


The tsunami killed an estimated 2,000 adult albatrosses and about 110,000 chicks in the Refuge, a U.S. posession about a third of the way between Honolulu and Tokyo in the North Pacific.

Those tallies represent a small fraction of the overall population of 1 million Laysan albatross -- Wisdom's species -- that nest in the refuge, but 20 percent of this year's hatchlings.

"It's a dangerous world out there, there's lots going on, so I would say she's very lucky," said Barry Stieglitz, project leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wisdom holds the record as the oldest wild specimen documented during the 90-year history of the U.S. and Canadian bird-banding research program.

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