Petey is a great egret that several years ago began “pirating” shrimp out of the bait box across from the Matanzas Inn Restaurant.
Petey has now been visiting Matanzas Inn Restaurant since 1985 for his breakfast, lunch and dinner. Petey has become such a regular that he has reached celebrity status — pictures decorate the walls inside the restaurant.
The restaurant crew has adopted Petey and feed him fresh Gulf shrimp daily, which Petey will only eat if brought to him in a bowl of water so that the shrimp are still wet and not dried up. Petey never takes more shrimp than he needs, when he is full he won’t eat any more shrimp.
The fact that Petey trusts people is somewhat ironic! The population of great egrets is currently recovering from years of persecution by plume hunters, according to the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds.
The great egret is a magnificent, all white heron with a yellow bill and black legs. It is distinguished from a great white heron primarily by the color of its legs. The heron’s legs are greenish-yellow.
Most egrets feed alone. Stalking fish, frogs, snakes and crayfish in shallow water. This is the reason that makes Petey different from other egrets. He not only likes company when he dines, he likes human company.