In early March, a bald eagle named Murphy, a resident of the World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri, was ready to become a father. He crafted his nest carefully in the bottom of his enclosure, his home for most of his 31 years of life since an injury left him unable to fly. As time went on, he became more and more protective of his 'offspring', screeching and charging at anyone who tried to come near.
Only one thing stood in the way: His careful brooding and nurturing was being spent on a lifeless rock. Murphy was experiencing a spring hormonal surge compelling him to brood, despite not having an egg of his own, which can lead birds to care for egg-like objects, Dawn Griffard, CEO of World Bird Sanctuary, told the New York Times.
Keepers at the sanctuary assumed that Murphy’s fatherhood fantasy would pass with the season. But, no, he continued to brood, desperately willing his rock to hatch.
Then, serendipitously, news came of young wild eaglet that had fallen from its nest during a storm and needed somewhere to stay. The World Bird Sanctuary realized that this could be Murphy’s big chance.
“He was taking such good care of his rock that we decided that he would be our best bet,” Griffard told the Washington Post.
After carefully and slowly introducing the little eaglet to Murphy, he began to respond to the miraculous eaglet’s peeps. After a few days, when they were given food, a whole fish for Murphy and bite-sized pieces for his young charge, rather than each eating their separate dish, Murphy took his portion and ripped it up to feed to the baby. Success!