VALLEY PARK, Mo. (KTVI) – A 31-year-old bald eagle named Murphy at the World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri is going viral for his paternal instincts.
Murphy began incubating a rock a few weeks ago, which is not uncommon, according to Roger Holloway, the sanctuary’s executive director.
“It’s not out of the complete ordinary for an eagle if they don’t have an egg and they’re going through nesting behavior to try and incubate something,” Holloway said, adding that spring is when eagles usually breed and show natural reproductive behavior.
But just a week or so later, the rock Murphy was protecting was replaced with a real eaglet.
“This spring, it coincided with us having a lone chick,” Holloway said.
A couple of weeks ago, that eaglet was blown out of its nest in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Its sibling did not survive, but the eaglet, now known as “Eaglet 23-126,” was moved to the sanctuary.
Murphy has been watching over the eaglet with minimal human interaction ever since.
“It’s just a single-dad kind of effort right now,” Holloway said.
It’s the first time the sanctuary has ever had one of its bald eagles adopt an eaglet, so Holloway and his team will be watching closely while Murphy helps raise the eaglet as it grows strong enough to be released.
“Murphy is doing what we want him to do,” said Thomas Guillebeau, a wildlife technician. “He’s showing him what it takes to be an adult eagle.”
According to the American Eagle Foundation, after mating, both eagle parents — who typically mate for life — help with incubation. The mother bird does most of the work, but the dads help.
“Both parents are vigilant in protecting the eggs from predators or intruders to the nest,” the foundation says.
Murphy’s parenting has gone viral on Twitter, with thousands of likes and nearly 250,000 views as of Friday.
The sanctuary, which provides “a safe haven” for about 270 animals across over 300 acres in Valley Park, located outside St. Louis, said it will not be naming the eaglet because “rehab superstition is strong.”
“We’re not SUPERstitious, we’re just a little stitious,” the sanctuary wrote.
The facility said fans, however, are welcome to “call him/her what you’d like!”