The famous Peabody Ducks
The Peabody Ducks March Daily at 11am & 5pm. Kids get a front row seat along the red carpet that runs out of the elevator to the hotel lobby fountain. There are ropes behind the kids where the adults can stand. Make sure to get there early if you want a seat at the bar or in the lobby. It’s roped off around 4:30pm and although you’ll have a comfortable seat you aren’t allowed to stand. It is definitely an event. It’s a big deal and the entire hotel fills up to watch the Peabody Ducks everyday.
Yes, the Peabody ducks waddle across the roof, into the hotel, onto the elevator, down the elevator, and hop off at the lobby to waddle along the red carpet for smiling faces and flashing photography all the way to the hotel lobby fountain where they stay from 11am to 5pm until they march back up to their home on the roof of the Peabody Hotel.
The lobby is super packed so my advice is to head to the roof to watch them from there. Trust me, there is no one up there so you get a front row seat and the best view!
The Legend of the Ducks
How did the tradition of the ducks in The Peabody fountain begin? Back in the 1930s Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much Tennessee sippin’ whiskey, and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain. Three small English call ducks were selected as “guinea pigs,” and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Thus began a Peabody tradition which was to become internationally famous.®
In 1940, Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now-famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke became The Peabody Duckmaster, serving in that capacity for 50 years until his retirement in 1991.
Nearly 90 years after the inaugural march, ducks still visit the lobby fountain at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day.
Some facts about the Peabody Ducks
- Ducks were not the first residents of The Peabody’s lobby fountain. Rumor has it that turtles and baby alligators each briefly graced the fountain in the 1920s.
- The Peabody Ducks are five North American mallards – one drake (male) with a white collar and green head and four hens (females) with less colorful plumage.
- Duck is not served anywhere at The Peabody and has not been seen on the hotel’s menus since its 1981 reopening, quite possibly making Chez Philippe the only French restaurant in the world that does not offer duck.
- The Peabody Ducks do not have individual names. However, the very first team of ducks were Peabody, Gayoso and Chisca – named for the three hotels owned by the Memphis Hotel Company in 1933.
- When off-duty, the ducks live in their Royal Duck Palace on the hotel’s rooftop. The $200,000 structure is made of marble and glass and features its very own fountain with a bronze duck spitting water. It also includes a small house – a replica of the hotel – where the ducks can nest with a soft, grassy “front yard.”
- The Peabody Marching Ducks have appeared on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “Sesame Street” when Bert and Ernie celebrated Rubber Ducky Day, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and in People magazine and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.
- The Peabody Ducks have been both a question on the TV game show “Jeopardy” and in the board game Trivial Pursuit.
- Original Duckmaster Edward Pembroke held the position for 50 years.
- Raised by a local farmer and a friend of the hotel, each team of Peabody Ducks lives at the hotel for only three months before retiring from their duty and returning to the farm, where they are free to live as wild ducks. With a return to the great outdoors in mind, the hotel recognizes its resident waterfowl as wild animals and does not domesticate them or treat them like pets.
Address: 149 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38103