You’ve probably heard of a national flower or national animal. But have you ever been to a destination with a dedicated mascot? Many countries have a national bird, but those are usually a native species to the land. Mykonos, an island of Greece, ended up adopting a foreign bird species as their community’s mascot.
Pelicans are not native to Greece at all, so how did it become the mascot of Mykonos? In 1958, a fisherman found the bird off the island’s coast, hurt, and took it home to nurse it back to health. The pelican became a local favorite and they nicknamed it Petros, meaning “stone or rock” or “grumpy and old.”
During its time as mascot, Petros flew to the neighboring Greek island of Tinos, whose locals decided to keep it. This started a contentious battle for reclaiming the pelican as their own in Mykonos. The people of the cosmopolitan island won the lawsuit and regained custody of Petros. They celebrated the return of their beloved mascot with a big festival, music, food, and drink.
After 30 years on the island, Petros passed away in 1985. The locals mourned the loss of their mascot, but not long after his passing, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who frequently visited Mykonos, donated a new pelican, Irene, to take up the mantle. A zoo in Hamburg, Germany also donated a pelican named Petros, while yet another pelican washed up on the shores of Mykonos for the residents to adopt. They named that last one Nikolas.
Petros the Pelican started a long tradition on the island of having this non-native bird as Mykonos’ mascot. Many a tourist and local alike have found the pelicans wandering the streets. While most travelers associate the island with a party lifestyle, those seeking a more off-the-beaten-path adventure would do well to go on the search for Petros or his friends for a photo op of the local celebrities.
Seek out the pelicans of Mykonos on our “11-Night Navigating Greek Wonders” luxe-adventure voyage.