You’ve probably seen viral videos of a Petros the Pelican on Mykonos island in Greece, cruising through hotels and restaurants like a feathered maître d’. Greeting patrons, posing for photos, waltzing past the front desk, checking up with the kitchen staff. But did you know he’s part of a legacy that started way back in 1958? And that Pelicans are not native to the area?
The original Petros the Pelican from the 1950s – Mykonos’ first official mascot
The original Petros (Peter in English) was a Rhodopean Pelican who lived on Mykonos in the 1950s, when the island first became an international tourist hotspot. In 1955, Petros got lost while migrating and was close to death from exhaustion and illness while out at sea. Luckily, a fisherman rescued Petros and brought him back to Mykonos to recover.
With Pelicans not native to the Aegean Sea (the sea between Greece and Turkey), the locals were all enamored with this big bird and his laid-back vibe. The fisherman decided to keep him after he recovered and named him after Petros Drakopoulo, a local hero from World War II. Petros kept his independence but stuck around for the fish and the party scene. And all the locals and tourists loved how friendly and relaxed he was – A perfect fit for Mykonos.
By the 1960s, Petros was a celebrity in his own right and met with Hollywood stars of the time such as Brigitte Bardot and Grace Kelly. In 1963, JFK’s wife, Jackie Kennedy, donated a female Pelican named Irini (translates to “peace”) so Petros would have a date for his nights out. The pair never really hit it off and didn’t have kids together though. Then the Hamburg Zoo donated another Pelican pal to the island, which was also named Petros. Petros II and Irini often acted as stand-ins for Petros, as his schedule was pretty full as it is and the increasing number of visitors wanting to see him.
Petros gets kidnapped, starts a feud between islands
At one point in the 1960s, Petros decided to take a break from the limelight and visit Tinos, a more low-key island nearby. The locals of Tinos, apparently jealous of Petros and his celeb status, decided to capture him and claim Petros wanted to stay there instead. Their story fell apart when the fisherman who saved Petros sailed over and the bird immediately recognized him and returned home.
The tragic death of Petros the Pelican
Petros was tragically killed by a car in 1985. It was estimated he was around 33 years, so he did live a very long and happy life on the island. Petros II then took over the mantle as the official Petros. After the passing of Petros II in the 1990s, another Pelican took the title of Petros. Since then, there have been at least three Pelicans that call Mykonos home, with one carrying on the legacy of Petros’ name.