Murphy the bald eagle went from incubating a rock (left) to bonding with an orphaned eagle chick.
A bald eagle who went viral for adopting a rock at a Missouri sanctuary recently took a new baby bird under his wing.
The 31-year-old bird named Murphy went viral in March after photos of his enclosure at the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Missouri, were shared on Twitter. A sign on the enclosure’s fence informed visitors that Murphy was looking after a rock.
“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,” the sign read. “He has built a nest on the ground, and is very carefully incubating a rock! We wish him the best of luck!”
The tweet racked up more than 4.5 million views and nearly 140,000 likes. On March 26, the sanctuary posted an update on Facebook about Murphy and the stone, which they later dubbed “RockBaby.”
“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. Murphy is not sad, so you don’t need to be,” the post read.
In a subsequent update on April 4, the group said Murphy had grown so protective of RockBaby that he took over a third of the 90,000 cubic-square-foot enclosure he shared with four other eagles.
Due to Murphy’s aggression, he and the rock were moved into their own space not accessible to the public.
Still, good news was on the way for Murphy. On April 2, the sanctuary shared photos of an injured bald eagle chick they received after a storm blew its nest down. The organization said the baby would be placed with an adult eagle because it was at high risk of imprinting on a human.
Although Murphy wasn’t a contender for the job at first, the sanctuary wrote on April 12 that he turned out to be the chick’s best option.
“It was then decided that we would give Murphy a chance at fostering the eaglet. Murphy’s dad instincts were already in high gear, but at 31 years old, he had never raised a chick before,” the sanctuary wrote. “It’s definitely a gamble, but also the chick’s best chance.”
The baby was introduced to Murphy in a small wood and wire box the group jokingly refers to as “Baby Jail.” Once the box was placed in Murphy’s enclosure, staff monitored their interactions as Murphy learned to accept the chick. The chick was then removed from the box and allowed to interact with Murphy, who began to feed and protect it.
“It’s just too much for the heart to handle. The fact that the chick’s face is blurry is incredibly endearing. That mouth is very busy peeping away,” the group captioned a photo of Murphy and the chick on Facebook. “It wants more and more food! Good thing Murphy has all of us to supply it!”
After a round of severe weather and tornadoes in Missouri on April 16, the sanctuary said it found the chick suffering from hypothermia and shock. It was treated at the sanctuary hospital and returned to Murphy and a newly “fortified and improved” nest to continue their bonding.