Peabody Ducks at the Peabody Hotel, Memphis, TN
The Peabody Ducks dating back to the 1930s. When the owner of the hotel had just come back from a hunting trip and thought it would be fun to put his live decoy ducks (you could have live decoys back than) in the hotels fountain. Guests thought it was amusing to see ducks swimming in the fountain.
In the 1940s, Edward Pembroke, a bellman, volunteered to care for the ducks. He was a former circus animal trainer and he taught the ducks to march into the hotel lobby, which started the tradition of the Peabody Duck March. He was named Duck Master and held that position until 1991.
Everyday at 11am the ducks march from their penthouse suite on the roof to the elevator and down to the fountain in the lobby and at 5pm they leave the fountain and march back to their rooftop penthouse home. They march to the John Phillip Sousa song the King Cotton March.
In 2008, they unveiled a new “Duck Palace.” It s a 24x12ft enclosure with granite floors, ceiling fans, a scale replica of the hotel and a fountain decorated with bronze ducks. There is a viewing window for guests to see the ducks. The duck palace cost roughly $200,000.
The Peabody Hotel, respects the ducks, by not serving duck anywhere in the hotel, making Chez Philippe probably one of the only french restaurants that doesn’t have duck on the menu.
The ducks are raised by a local farmer. Each team of Peabody Ducks lives at the hotel for 3 months before retiring and returning to the farm to live out the rest of their lives as wild ducks.
The ducks we saw had just started there 3 month stay at the hotel. It was actually there second day. For the first week of the stay they have guest often children sit along the red carpet so the ducks know where to go. Ducks are routine based animals and quickly learn what is being asked of them in about a week. Once the ducks know to stay on the red carpet, they use the staircase to exit the fountain and walk to the elevator.
The staff are very protective and guests have to either be in a seat in the lobby or behind ropes to not spook the ducks. When we got there I was asking the duck master where the best place to be was. He told be behind the ropes. So I stood there while Lee had a seat on the sofa. When there wasn’t enough children to line the red carpet, he asked the first row of people at the ropes if they would like to sit down and assist to help the ducks learn to stay on the carpet. The older lady next to me didn’t want to sit, so I sat in her place. The next thing I knew was the Duck Master was asking me if I could be of further assistance. He asked if I could sit by the staircase to the fountain and help guide the ducks out. I eagerly said yes, as long as Lee could sit on the floor. So Lee sat on the floor and was able to video the event while I helped.
They do what they can make it easier on the ducks. The put signs up blocking the ducks to hep them understand where to exit the fountain. The Duck Master then starts guiding the ducks. It was at this point the new ducks got confused. One flew out of the fountain right next to me I tried to guide it to the red carpet but it got past me and start walking around were the quests were seated so I got up and guided it back to the red carpet. It walked down the red carpet but realized all the other ducks were in the fountain so went back to the fountain. Other duck got out, so I had to guide him back to. At this point hotel staff came to assist in guiding the ducks. I was able to help get two to the red carpet. Once on the red carpet the ducks eagerly walked right to the elevator and got on.
For me it felt like it took 10 minutes to get all the ducks out of the fountain and to the elevator, but according to Lee’s video it took less than 4 minutes. I got a little wet from the splashing but I had a great time. I came to the Peabody Hotel to see the ducks march, never did I think I would be helping. I can also assure you no ducks were harmed in the process. These ducks are very well cared for, they are given a shower each morning prior to making their appearance. They are wild ducks and have the ability to leave the fountain at any time, however being that they are waterfowl, they tend to stay in the fountain.