An eagle that went viral for his tenacity in incubating a rock has taken a genuine eaglet under his wing.
Murphy, a 31-year-old bald eagle at the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Missouri, gained popularity last month after a visitor tweeted a now-viral tweet showing him sitting on the ground in his enclosure. A sign near him told passersby that Murphy was fine, though a little bewildered.
“Murphy is NOT hurt, sick, or otherwise in distress,” the sign said. “He has built a nest on the ground, and is very carefully incubating a rock! We wish him the best of luck!”
In a Facebook post about the scenario, the sanctuary stated that Murphy was not “sad” or lonely but was reacting to spring hormones. Nonetheless, other enthusiasts thought the bird showed signs of being a fantastic father if given a chance.
That opportunity would come just a few weeks later.
Murphy had grown so defensive of his rock nest, screeching and charging at companion birds he viewed as a threat, that he was distressing the other eagles in the enclosure, the sanctuary stated in a follow-up post on Tuesday. As a result, the staff relocated Murphy and his rock to “their own private enclosure to alleviate tensions.”
Around the same time, someone brought a “bruised and battered” eagle baby to the sanctuary after heavy winds blew down its nest.
“A plan was made to introduce the chick to one of our adult bald eagles to foster, but which one?” the sanctuary wrote.
Of course, the solution was self-evident.
Bald Eagle with Eaglet
The eaglet was first introduced to Murphy’s enclosure, inside a small container filled with blankets and a heating pad, which the sanctuary lovingly calls “baby jail.” The baby jail protects the chick as the two birds get to know each other. On the other hand, Murphy immediately began responding to the baby eagle’s peeps and “protecting the area” around the eaglet.
The eaglet was removed from baby jail a few days later, allowing the two to engage directly. The older eagle took on the job of a lone father with ease and soon fed the smaller bird a piece of a fish.
“Murphy and his new charge are bonding beautifully,” the sanctuary wrote on Saturday, alongside a video showing the pair side by side. The post noted that when the food arrives, Murphy can be seen waiting for the eaglet to eat, then demonstrating how to do so.
The eaglet was not named by the sanctuary due to a “superstition” that if a wildlife rehabilitation center names one of its patients, that animal will not be able to be released back into the wild. Murphy is a permanent resident of the sanctuary due to a wing injury that prohibits him from flying.
But that hasn’t stopped the 31-year-old from being an excellent adoptive father.
“Murphy is modeling eagle behavior perfectly, and becoming a wonderful, gentle papa,” the sanctuary wrote.