Mykonos: The story of Peter the pelican

This is the story of Peter A, the first named pelican who took a shine to Mykonos over the last few decades.

Today in the old harbour of Mykonos there is a whole group of pelekans –migratory by nature- but despite that they have their permanent residence on the island of the winds –Mykonos.  You will see a pelekan strolling undisturbed along the island’s Mykonos old harbour and if he is in the mood he will pose proudly for the cameras with his big yellow nose held high.

He would state himself to be a permanent resident of Mykonos-although by his nature he is a perfectly apt traveller.

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The residents of Mykonos still remember fondly the day that the first pelican arrived-the celebrated Peter A.
The real story of Mykonos’s pelicans goes back along way and is deeply human and moving, as well as extremely important historically.

The first chapter in the story of Peter A (more pelicans with the same name followed) was written in the autumn of 1955 and is rooted in local postwar folklore. It coincided with the time that that the tourism industry was taking off on the island- the 60’s and 70’s.

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Why Petros (Peter) ?

The first pelican arrived on the island on 16th October 1955. He was fished out of the sea by Captain Antonis Haritopoulos who was fishing that afternoon north east of Merhia bay. Exhausted and close to death –it was the first time that the residents of Mykonos had seen such a creature.

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The fisherman Thodoris Kirandonis and pelican Petros filmed in the 1969

The enormous bird was a pink pelican who had obviously lost way on its migratory journey south.

Being migratory these sea birds are rare in Greece with only one other colony registered in Prespa lake in the 1960’s. They are occasionally seen as fleeting visitors in the wetlands of Thrace on their journey. Today the pink pelican is an endangered species and therefore under the world wide protection of wild birds.

Of course all that was unknown in 1955 when the residents decided to care for the exhausted bird andone particular man- animal lover and fisherman Thodoris Kirandonis adopted it.

The older islanders movingly remember how Kirandonis looked after the pelican for years like it was one of his children.

He named it Peter in memory of hero Captain Petros Drakopoulos who was lost in the occupation of Greece in the Second World War. The late film director Giannis Dalianidis was to immortalise both the fisherman Thodoris Kirandonis and pelican Petros in the 1969 greek film.

Petros the outlandish bird recovered quickly and soon began to take trips along the harbour front side by side with the fishermen and their boats.

He effectively decided that this was his chosen paradise communicating easily with friendly people and enjoying ample and delicious fish titbits and in the process becoming famous worldwide.

The international Jet-set in Mykonos island

Petros A’ became like the island’s lord and lived through the golden age of the 60’s.

At this time VIP’s such as Aristotelis Onassis, Maria Callas, Agah Khan, Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Princess Soraya, Melina Mercouri, Jules Dassin, Yul Brynner, Jeanne Moreau, Bridget Bardot, and many many more enjoyed the greek summer on the island.

In 1963 Jackie Kennedy gave the island a gift of two white pelicans Alfonso and Omega so that Petros A could have some company.

After that followed two more- as another gift from visitors to the island. The majority of the pelicans were baptized Petros but there are also a Kristian or Christos.

Mykonos pelecan 014It is certain that no pelicans were born on Mykonos.

Experts insist that these birds mate only in freshwater lake areas feeding on fish and giving birth once a year usually laying two eggs.

Mykonos vs Tinos

Folklore tales mention that so great is the residents love for the pelicans that they did not hesitate to declare war with the residents of the neighbouring island of Tinos. This heated exchange takes us back to1958.
In this year Petros A’s migratory instincts come alive and for the first time he spreads his wings and takes off for Tinos which is situated close by. He is enthusiastically welcomed by the locals and they refuse to return him to Mykonos.

For the normally friendly neighbours this is seen to constitute an act of war and they take to their boats and set sail for Tinos led by the pelicans adopted father Thodoris Kirantonis.Mykonos pelecan 006 (1)

The conflict ended peacefully as soon as the pelican recognized Kirandonis going straight to his side. Petros went back to Mykonos and has never left since. His only journey and the only conflict between the two islands.

Mykonos: The highlights of a top destination

  • Don’t ever believe that you know everything about Mykonos.Τhe island has been praised for being tolerant modern and open to be different without compromising its morals and local customs and its islanders continue to keep these alive. Mykonos is among other things a must along with the home of Apollo-the island of Delos.
  • Υou will hear many strange and naughty stories about the pelicans of Mykonos. Needless to say all the rumours have been proven untrue……
  • We recommend that you visit Mykonos with a different perspective.
    Explore the 45 beaches by bicycle. You will fall in love with the downhill runs on good tarmac surfaces.Take care of the strong winds and take into account the meltemi {the hot strong summer winds typical in the Aegean the months of July and August]. Do watch out for reckless tourists with quad bikes and other vehicles.
    For mountain bikes people ‘in the know’ prefer free ride paradise at the old barite mines2km north-east of Ano Mera] for hilly and rough terrain. From there you will have the splendid view of Merhia bay where the first pelican of Mykonos was found and recovered. Follow the dirt tracks to the beaches of Foko and Mersini.

Photographs from the archives of Mykonos Council

Destination on map

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