Walking into a hotel lobby and finding ducks wadding around in the fountain might be cause for concern, but not at The Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Oh no, The Peabody welcomes wild ducks into its lobby and even provides them lodging in their own penthouse dubbed the Duck Palace. In fact, The Peabody Hotel ducks are world-famous.
The Peabody Hotel Ducks
The Peabody Hotel Ducks are a fun tradition that started back in the 1930’s when friends, who had a bit too much Jack Daniel’s Tennessee sippin’ whiskey thought it would be funny to place some of their English Call Duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the marble fountain in the lobby of The Peabody. One of the friends happened to be the general manager of The Peabody, Frank Schutt, so he could easily get away with it. To his surprise (the next day), the ducks had remained in the fountain and better yet, the guests loved it! Since then five mallard ducks (one male and four females) swim in the fountain everyday.
The Peabody Hotel Ducks have become a huge attraction not only for the hotel but those visiting Memphis. And after seeing the “Duck March” it’s hard not to see why. At exactly 11am the ducks ride the elevator down from the Duck Palace down to the lobby where the red carpet has been rolled out for them to make their way to the fountain. They spend the remainder of the day swimming in the fountain, and occasionally saying hi to the guests lounging in the lobby. At 5pm the red carpet is again rolled and the ducks retire for the evening. The latter march is a perfect time (or excuse) to sit in the lobby and enjoy a cocktail and/or appetizer. Note, the one thing you won’t find on ANY menu at The Peabody is duck.
When I visited The Peabody, I had a chance to chat with The Duckmaster, Anthony Petrina. The role of the Duckmaster is just what it sounds like – handling the training and supervision of the ducks. In other words, he’s the guy in charge of The Peabody Hotel ducks. Walking the ducks to and from the fountain twice a day didn’t sound like a hard gig, until I found out the ducks are wild. Yes, I knew they HAD been wild, but to honor the tradition The Peabody brings in new ducks every THREE months!?!? I was told this helps to prevent the ducks from becoming tamed animals that cannot be reintroduced to the wild.
The ducks are raised for about a year at nearby farm and then brought into The Peabody where Anthony then trains them. The veteran ducks are taken “on tour” to senior centers and schools and then returned to the farm they were raised. Occasionally, a veteran duck will return for another three-month stint at The Peabody but Anthony said the majority fly off during migration times at the farm.
The role of the Duckmaster is not a new one. A Bellman at The Peabody named Edward Pembroke was the first Duckmaster in 1940, an served in this role for 50 years. He was a former circus animal trainer and offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day, he also taught them the now-famous Peabody Duck March.
Have you seen The Peabody Hotel Ducks March? What did you think?