Eagle Who Tried to Hatch a Rock Gets His Dad Wish

Murphy wanted to be a father so bad that Missouri sanctuary is now letting him foster its new eaglet
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2023 9:50 AM CDT
Eagle Who Tried to Hatch a Rock Gets His Dad Wish
Murphy, right, and his new charge.   (World Bird Sanctuary, via Washington Post)

Father's Day isn't for a couple of more months, but there's one dad who deserves acknowledgment now. That would be Murphy, a bald eagle living at the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Missouri, who had paternal cravings so strong that he actually tried to hatch a chick out of a rock, per CBS News. Visitors to the sanctuary started to become worried last month when they noticed the 31-year-old raptor was hunkered down, barely moving, in one corner of his enclosure. Enough people expressed concern that a sign was soon put into place with an explanation by one of his keepers, per the sanctuary. "Murphy is not hurt, sick, or otherwise in distress," it read. "He has built a nest on the ground, and is very carefully incubating a rock. We wish him the best of luck!"

Murphy's plight went viral after the sanctuary posted about it on social media, and although it seemed almost enabling to encourage his efforts at a never-to-be task, people from around the world did. Now, however, there's a "twist," and a happy ending for Murphy: In early April, the sanctuary took possession of an eaglet, and Murphy literally took the chick under his wing as his own. "He was sitting on a rock and everybody told him, 'It's a rock, it's not going to hatch,'" Dawn Griffard, the sanctuary's CEO, tells the Washington Post. "And all of a sudden, in his mind, it hatched and he has a chick."

She notes that it's not uncommon for birds without offspring to try to incubate rocks or golf balls during breeding season, when their hormones are raging. The sanctuary notes that Murphy had never raised a chick before, but because his "dad instincts were already in high gear," staffers decided to give him a chance to foster the baby. The pair have been getting along swimmingly ever since, with Murphy feeding the eaglet from his own stash of fish. The sanctuary says the chick will be trained to fly and hunt and be released back into the wild over the summer, but Murphy should be fine. "There is a point where eagle parents know that it's time for the chick to leave," Griffard tells the Post. "And they almost kick the chick out of the nest. So, he'll know." (More bald eagle stories.)

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