Rescue Bald Eagle Who Tried to Hatch a Rock in an Attempt to Become a Dad Gets a Foster Chick

The World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri has been documenting the "strange" and spellbinding tale of the 31-year-old eagle's quest to become a single dad

A male eagle in Valley Park, Missouri, who went viral for trying to incubate a rock, is fulfilling his dream as a dad!

Murphy, a 31-year-old flightless bald eagle at World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri, began exhibiting "strange" behavior last month when staffers noticed the bird forming a nest and sitting on a large rock.

Day after day, the determined bird sat on the rock, which was hospitably strewn with leaves and branches, seemingly waiting for the impossible.

Visitors at the sanctuary could not help but wonder about Murphy, whose lethargic behavior drew so much notice that the sanctuary said it hung a sign outside the bird's enclosure for curious onlookers.

"Is That Eagle Hurt?" the sign read. "If you see an eagle lying down in the back left corner under a perch, that's Murphy! Murphy is not hurt, sick, or otherwise in distress. He has built a nest on the ground and is very carefully incubating a rock! We wish him the best of luck!"

Murphy the bald eagle

After a visitor posted the sign on social media, the sanctuary said animal lovers started asking the facility to give Murphy an eaglet of his own.

By a stroke of coincidence, shortly after Murphy started sitting on his meteorite-sized rock, the sanctuary received word that an eagle nest containing two chicks nearby had fallen down due to high winds on April 2. One eaglet survived the incident and was brought to World Bird Sanctuary, where the 14-day-old baby bird was dubbed "eaglet 23-126."

After examining the chick and helping it to recover, World Bird Sanctuary decided to have one of its eagles foster the baby. Sights immediately turned to Murphy, who had shown a high sense of protectiveness around his rock baby by screaming and charging at other eagles who came close to his nest.

"It was kind of like, how can we not do this? How can we not give him a chance?" Dawn Griffard, the chief executive of the sanctuary, told the New York Times.

Slowly, the sanctuary staff began introducing Murphy to the baby in a private enclosure. On April 6, the rescue put the eaglet in a "Baby Jail" — a protective cage — for its first meet with Murphy.

Once the sanctuary's staff felt satisfied that Murphy had accepted eaglet 23-126, they set the baby free inside Murphy's private habitat.

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In an update posted last Wednesday, the sanctuary said it had dropped two types of foods into the enclosure: chopped food that the chick could eat on its own and a large fish that only Murphy could handle. The rescue said Murphy shredded up the fish and helped feed it to the baby for the first time — taking quickly to his fatherhood duties — shortly after the sanctuary offered him the fish to share with the chick.

The sanctuary said about the bond between the birds, "It's just too much for the heart to handle."

"You can definitely see the imprinting happening, which is exactly what we wanted," Griffard added to the Times.

However, things hit a snag on Sunday when a tornado touched down close to the sanctuary. Staff checked on Muprhy and his foster chick the next day and found the eaglet "soaking wet, breathing heavily, suffering from hypothermia." The sanctuary said it took the chick to the hospital to dry it off with microfiber towels and heaters.

"Murphy is just learning how to be a dad, so he isn't perfect yet. He has lots to learn!" the organization said on Facebook.

The sanctuary fortified the chick's nest, placed the baby back into the enclosure with Murphy a day later, and said that bonding between the pair "has resumed."

"It was kind of scary," Griffard told the Times of finding the chick drenched after the storm. But, she added that Murphy was still "doing very well learning how to be a first-time dad."

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