The average cattle egret dines on insects and lizards, but one of the birds has become hooked on McDonald’s french fries, thanks to customers at the restaurant franchise on U.S. 41 near Stickney Point Road, where the bird has been hanging out regularly.
Employees at the fast-food establishment say the same cattle egret has been visiting their McDonald’s location for more than a year, but last month its visits became much more frequent.
“Since July, it’s like he works here,” joked Manager Fernanda Lima.
The egret has two favorite resting spots — an outdoor table, where it can stare through the window at two indoor tables filled with diners, and on the ground outside the front door.
The bird has been visiting the restaurant every day, because customers feed it. French fries are the snack it wins most readily through its begging.
Lima said one senior citizen bought a small order of fries each day specifically to give the bird.
“(The customer) came one day during breakfast, when we didn’t have fries, and he said, ‘The bird’s not going to be happy with me today,’” Lima said.
As frequent feedings made the egret more comfortable around humans, restaurant employees began to fear it would get hit in the parking lot, because it freely weaves in between cars.
The restaurant’s owner called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to see if it would take the bird to a safer location. The agency refused but asked the owner to post a letter on the restaurant doors, warning patrons that the bird would die if it is fed an unnatural diet.
Since that note went up a few weeks ago, Lima said fewer customers are feeding the bird. As a result, the egret is visiting less often.
Is it going to the Burger King a couple of blocks away?
“Hopefully, not,” Lima said with a laugh.
Please Help: Florida Fish and Wildlife has asked that we discourage patrons from feeding the cattle egret. This bird will become sick and die on an unnatural diet. The bird’s natural diet is bugs, lizards, etc. Thank you for your cooperation.