Bald Eagle That Went Viral For Sitting On A Rock Becomes Foster Dad To Injured Eaglet

Our hearts cannot handle this story.

While we’ve been focused on M-15 and his mission to raise his eaglets alone following the death of his mate, more than a thousand miles away, another male bald eagle has been vying for the title of Super Dad. 

A 31-year-old bald eagle named Murphy first captured the hearts of the nation last month, when the disabled bird went viral for sitting on a rock he thought was an egg

Murphy Baby

World Bird Sanctuary

Murphy, who cannot fly due to a permanent wing injury, resides at World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Missouri. In early March, keepers there noticed he had built an “extremely simple” nest on the ground and was “very carefully and attentively” incubating a single “egg.”

“We wish Murphy all the luck in the world, but we’re not telling him the reality of the situation,” the sanctuary wrote on Facebook. “We have yet to see a rock hatch.” 

The post quickly went viral, garnering national news coverage and a wave of concern for Murphy and his rock baby. World Bird Sanctuary assured his fans that there was no need to worry.

“Although it might make you feel sad that Murphy has built a nest and is nurturing a rock as an egg, it’s just his hormonal response to spring,” the non-profit wrote in a follow-up post. “Murphy is not sad, so you don’t need to be. Male bald eagles take an equal part in raising young, so this is very natural behavior for a male.” 

Keepers were sure that Murphy would grow “bored” of the rock and eventually move on, but the opposite happened. Despite the odds, he remained fiercely committed to it, and by the first week of April, things had reached a “boiling point” in his shared enclosure. Murphy’s “exuberant protection” of his “egg” was stressing the other bald eagle occupants, and sanctuary staff was forced to move him into his own private enclosure. 

At 31 one years old, Murphy, it seemed, was determined to become a first-time dad.

Fortunately, keepers had just the thing. 

On April 1, the sanctuary received its first bald eagle nestling in more than eight years. Bald Eagle 23-126, who arrived with a fractured wing after its nest tree was blown down in a storm, was in desperate need of a foster parent.

On April 6, after some initial hesitation due to Murphy’s lack of parenting experience, the news everyone had been waiting for arrived. 

“Murphy will be given a chance this week to bond with the eaglet we received last week,” the sanctuary announced on Facebook. “Step one will be placing the chick in Murphy’s enclosure during the day (with a warmer) within the small cage, so we can see how Murphy reacts to the chick without having full access—just in case the reaction is negative.”

“Keep your talons crossed,” the post concluded.  

This week, after safely allowing them to get acclimated to each other, 23-126 was released from his protective cage, and Murphy had a chance to start the bonding process.

Staff watched through a peephole as Murphy examined the eaglet from afar. An hour later, he approached. The next morning, keepers were thrilled to discover that he had successfully fed the baby.

“IT’S HAPPENING!!!!” they exclaimed in a Facebook update. 

“From this point on, we will be as hands off as possible to allow maximum bonding between Murphy and 23-126 and as natural of an upbringing as can be managed in a rehabilitation setting,” the post explained. “This means that our updates on Murphy and 23-126 will be less frequent as we don’t want to disturb them with constant checks and observation.”

Go, Murphy go! What an incredible year it’s been for bald eagle dads!

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