Murphy, a 31-year-old bald eagle who lives at a bird sanctuary in Walley Park, Montana, carefully built a nest for his egg to hatch. However, the egg that he was sitting on, was a rock. Not only did he keep the egg warm by sitting in the spot all day, but he would gently rotate it with his beak as if trying to incubate it. He would even charge and squawk at other birds who approached his nest.
As fate would have it, an orphaned eaglet, was recently brought into the sanctuary earlier this month. The baby eagle, who’s just a week or two old, had survived after falling from his nest during a storm. According to the chief executive of the sanctuary Dawn Griffard, Murphy was an obvious choice when it came to finding a foster parent.
Keepers did have one concern, however; Murphy had never looked after an actual egg or eaglet before, only a rock.
In the wild, bald eagles typically share parenting duties, with the males incubating the eggs. Every now and then, however, birds will brood upon other objects due to a hormonal surge.
Murphy’s case, however, is a little different as he’s lived at the sanctuary for over three decades and had never become a father. In fact, he never chose to mate with any of the eagles in the sanctuary.
Prior to the baby eaglet’s arrival, Murphy had become increasingly aggressive- to the point where he had to be moved to a solo enclosure. After some thought, the keepers decided to introduce the baby eagle to Murphy inside a small cage. The two were then allowed to meet through the wires.
Several days later, the baby eagle was introduced into Murphy’s enclosure. Immediately, Murphy began to protect and respond to the eaglet’s chirps. Wanting to test his fatherly instincts, the keepers placed two different types of food in the enclosure: one for the chick and a whole fish that only Murphy would be able to eat. Murphy surprised everyone by tearing up the fish and feeding it to the baby eagle.
Murphy also helped keep the eaglet dry during a storm that swept through the area on Saturday night.
While there are some things, such as hunting and flying, that the keepers will have to teach the baby eagle, as Murphy’s wings are permanently damaged, they are hopeful that he will be able to be released to the wild.