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An old male bald eagle who adopted a rock as an egg has just been given a real foster baby

People are totally invested in Murphy becoming a real dad after he spent weeks nurturing his "RockBaby."

bald eagle and eaglet

Murphy meets a rescued eaglet—his new foster baby.

On March 8, 2023, a keeper at World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis County, Missouri, noticed something odd. A male bald eagle named Murphy was guarding what appeared to be a large depression in the ground.

“The spot was sparsely but carefully decorated with leaves and branches, and featured a simple rock right in the center,” the nature preserve shared on its Facebook page.

Murphy began sitting on the rock, nudging it and becoming fiercely protective of it, as it if were an egg. People visiting the sanctuary would inquire about the bald eagle just sitting there, wondering if he was okay. The keepers finally put up a sign that read:


“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. He has built a nest on the ground, and is very carefully incubating a rock! We wish him the best of luck!”

In case you’re wondering if this is unusual behavior for a 31-year-old male bald eagle, the answer is "not really, but…." Male bald eagles do share equally in nesting and baby-raising, so the paternal instinct part is normal. Murphy's channeling of that instinct onto a rock…maybe not so much. And at 31, he's more like a great-granddad than dad, as bald eagles usually live 20 to 30 years in the wild (though they do live longer in captivity).

Murphy takes fatherhood seriously, though. Soon he began screaming and charging at the four other eagles in the aviary if they came anywhere near RockBaby. (That's the official name the keepers gave Murphy’s…well, rock baby.) Naturally, the screaming and charging caused a fair amount of stress for all involved, so Murphy and RockBaby were moved to their own enclosure for everyone's protection.

People who saw this unfold started suggesting sanctuary staff replace Murphy’s rock with a real egg or get him a mate, but 1) Eagle eggs aren’t just lying around waiting to be given to wanna-be dads, 2) hatching a different kind of bird's egg would be potentially dangerous for it, and 3) Murphy had two females right there in the aviary, and none of them were interested in each other. Alas, the heart cannot be forced.

However, a different opportunity presented itself in late March when an aerie with two chicks in it was blown down by high winds. One chick didn’t survive the fall, but the other was brought to World Bird Sanctuary’s Wildlife Hospital.

A bit bruised, but otherwise healthy, the chick was given a good prognosis. Staff began feeding it while wearing a camouflage suit and holding an eagle stuffy to prevent the eaglet from imprinting on humans. What the baby really needed was a foster parent—an adult eagle who would feed and care for it.

“Murphy’s dad instincts were already in high gear,” the sanctuary wrote on April 11, “but at 31 years old, he had never raised a chick before. It’s definitely a gamble, but also the chick’s best chance.”

Introducing an eaglet to an adult eagle isn’t as simple as dropping it in the enclosure. First, the eaglet is put into what the sanctuary refers to as a “baby jail," which is a heated, comfy cage made of wood and wire that protects the eaglet but still allows some interaction between the birds so they can get used to one another. Once the desired bonding behavior is observed, then they try out some direct one-on-one interaction without the cage.

On April 12, World Bird Sanctuary announced, "IT'S HAPPENING!!!!"

The eaglet (referred to as Bald Eaglet 23-126—they don't name foster babies at the sanctuary for superstitious reasons) was released from baby jail, and after an hour or so Murphy approached it with curiosity. Was he wondering if his RockBaby had hatched? Maybe. Would he be the nurturing dad everyone hoped he would be? It appears so.

As the sanctuary shared:

"This morning, Murphy got his chance to be a full parent as 23-126 left the nest to go be closer to Murphy. The food is being dropped through a blind drop tube into the nest and baby appears unable to be able to get over the lip to get back into the nest to get the chopped food. When we checked back, we found that baby was still out of the nest and all the chopped food was still in the nest. However, Murphy’s whole fish had been removed from the nest and baby had a full crop. 23-126 is not yet old enough to tear food which means MURPHY FED THE BABY!!!!"

The comments on the update, of course, are pure gold as people have become fully invested in this story:

"I can’t believe I’m crying over eagles!"

"Murphy’s going to be giving a TedTalk: Manifest The Eaglet You Need In Your Life."

"So happy for Murphy & eaglet Dwayne (the rock Johnson)."

"'Rock, I am your Father.'"

"Omg I’m crying! Murphy never gave up on his rock and now has a baby of his very own❤️The wonders of nature never cease. Ty, WBS, for making this possible. These two are saving each other❤️🦅❤️🦅🪨🐣."

Many people have lamented that there is not a live cam so we can all watch this pair as their relationship develops, but staff reminded everyone that the sanctuary is out in the middle of the woods and they don't have a strong enough signal for a live stream.

But WBS staff has been posting updates on social media and will share the story as it continues to unfold. Follow World Bird Sanctuary on Facebook here. And if you feel compelled to donate to help feed little Dwayne or 23-126 or whatever you'd like to call Murphy's new baby—who apparently eats a ridiculous amount—you can donate here or check out their Amazon baby registry (yes, seriously!) here.

Congratulations, Papa Murphy!


This article originally appeared on 4.14.23

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Scientists tested 3 popular bottled water brands for nanoplastics using new tech, and yikes

The results were alarming—an average of 240,000 nanoplastics per 1 liter bottle—but what does it mean for our health?

Suzy Hazelwood/Canva

Columbia University researchers tested bottled water for nanoplastics and found hundreds of thousands of them.

Evian, Fiji, Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani—it's impressive how many brands we have for something humans have been consuming for millennia. Despite years of studies showing that bottled water is no safer to drink than tap water, Americans are more consuming more bottled water than ever, to the tune of billions of dollars in bottled water sales.

People cite convenience and taste in addition to perceived safety for reasons they prefer bottle to tap, but the fear factor surrounding tap water is still a driving force. It doesn't help when emergencies like floods cause tap water contamination or when investigations reveal issues with lead pipes in some communities, but municipal water supplies are tested regularly, and in the vast majority of the U.S., you can safely grab a glass of water from a tap.

And now, a new study on nanoplastics found in three popular bottled water brands is throwing more data into the bottled vs. tap water choice.

Researchers from Columbia University used a new laser-guided technology to detect nanoplastics that had previously evaded detection due to their miniscule size. The new technology can detect, count and analyze and chemical structure of nanoparticles, and they found seven different major types of plastic: polyamide, polypropylene, polyethylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate.

In contrast to a 2018 study that found around 300 plastic particles in an average liter of bottled water, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January of 2024 found 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter bottle on average between the three brands studied. (The name of the brands were not indicated in the study.)

As opposed to microplastics, nanoplastics are too small to be seen by microscope. Their size is exactly why experts are concerned about them, as they are small enough to invade human cells and potentially disrupt cellular processes.

“Micro and nanoplastics have been found in the human placenta at this point. They’ve been found in human lung tissues. They’ve been found in human feces; they’ve been found in human blood,” study coauthor Phoebe Stapleton, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy told CNN Health,

We know that nanoplastics are making their way into our bodies. We just don't have enough research yet on what that means for our health, and we still have more questions than answers. How many nanoplastics does it take to do damage and/or cause disease? What kinds of damage or disease might they cause? Is whatever effect they might have cumulative? We simply don't have answers to these questions yet.

That's not to say there's no cause for concern. We do know that certain levels of microplastic exposure have been shown to adversely affect the viability of cells. Nanoplastics are even smaller—does that mean they are more likely to cause cellular damage? Science is still working that out.

According to Dr. Sara Benedé of the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute of Food Science Research, it's not just the plastics themselves that might cause damage, but what they may bring along with them. “[Microparticles and nanoparticles] have the ability to bind all kinds of compounds when they come into contact with fluids, thus acting as carriers of all kinds of substances including environmental pollutants, toxins, antibiotics, or microorganisms,” Dr. Benedé told Medical News Today.

Where is this plastic in water coming from? This study focused on bottled water, which is almost always packaged in plastic. The filters used to filter the water before bottling are also frequently made from plastic.

Is it possible that some of these nanoplastics were already present in the water from their original sources? Again, research is always evolving on this front, but microplastics have been detected in lakes, streams and other freshwater sources, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that nanoplastics may be making their way into freshwater ecosystems as well. However, microplastics are found at much higher levels in bottled water than tap water, so it's also not a stretch to assume that most of the nanoplastics are likely coming from the bottling process and packaging rather than from freshwater sources.

The reality is, though, we simply don't know yet.

“Based on other studies we expected most of the microplastics in bottled water would come from leakage of the plastic bottle itself, which is typically made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic,” lead author Naixin Qian, a doctoral student in chemistry at Columbia University, told CNN Health. “However, we found there’s actually many diverse types of plastics in a bottle of water, and that different plastic types have different size distributions. The PET particles were larger, while others were down to 200 nanometers, which is much, much smaller.”

We need to drink water, and we need to drink safe water. At this point, we have plenty of environmental reasons for avoiding bottled water unless absolutely necessary and opting for tap water instead. Even if there's still more research to be done, the presence of hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics in bottled water might just be another reason to make the switch.

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It's weird to reach the stage when there's no doubt that you aren't young anymore. Not that Gen X is old—50 is the new 30, you know—but we're definitely not young. And it seems like every day there's something new that comes along to shove that fact right in our faces. When did hair start growing out of that spot? Why do I suddenly hate driving at night? Why is this restaurant so loud? Does that skin on my arm look…crepey?

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