When I first read about them in a guidebook I did a double take. Even as I told my friends we had to go to the Peabody Hotel to watch some ducks walking a red carpet when we were in Memphis I wasn’t sure if I was dragging them to a travel writer’s practical joke.
But as we soon realized not only are the Peabody Ducks real, they’re famous.
Living a life of red carpets, velvet ropes, rooftop pools and sweeping views of the Mississippi, these five North American mallards know how to work a room.
One of the top attractions in Memphis, Tennessee, every day at 11am these feathered celebrities leave their penthouse Duck Palace and prepare for the onslaught of tourist flashbulbs.
The Peabody Ducks and Their Rooftop Duck Palace
After descending to the ground floor in a glass elevator, they waddle the red carpet to take their place in the hotel lobby fountain.
The ducks spend the day greeting their fans, then at 5pm they clock off, and as the Duck Master clears their path with velvet ropes they wipe their feet on the red carpet, head back to the elevator and retire to the rooftop.
There they spend the night in the 288 square foot Duck Palace. Built in 2008 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Peabody Ducks, the Duck Palace features a 24 foot glass viewing panel, sun deck, ceiling fans, overhead lighting and a replica of the Peabody Hotel for the ducks to sleep in.
The $200,000 Duck Palace is open to the public from 8am to 10pm daily and replaces their previous, Camelot themed, accommodation.
Peabody Ducks Tradition Started with Hunting Trip
The tradition of the Peabody Ducks started with what is usually not a good mix; guns and alcohol.
In 1933 the General Manager of the hotel, Frank Schutt, and his friend Chip Barwick had too much to drink after a hunting trip and decided to put their live duck decoys in the hotel’s fountain.
People reacted so well to the sight of the three small English call ducks swimming around in the foyer that they were soon replaced by five North American Mallards.
The Peabody Hotel’s Duck Master
In 1940, former circus animal trainer, Bellman Edward Pembroke, taught the ducks how to make their own way into the fountain, and became the first Peabody Duck Master.
Mr Pembroke served as Duck Master for 50 years until his retirement in 1991. For the past five years Duck Master Anthony Petrina has been leading the mallards in the daily Duck March.
While I may not have known about them before I went, plenty of other people did thanks to them appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Sesame Street, in People Magazine and joining the other supermodels in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
And after my own visit this Nashville fan was happy to see them appear in an episode of the show.
No Duck On The Menu at The Peabody Hotel
While Duck Masters may stay for years, the career of a Peabody Duck is short. They only live in the hotel for three months before they are returned to a farm to live the rest of their life in the wild, telling tales of bright lights in the big city.
The Peabody Hotel is quick to point out that even though their restaurant, Chez Philippe, may be French, no duck has appeared in the hotel’s restaurant since 1981.
So there we have it; a very cute stop to put on your own Memphis trip. In the meantime you can follow what the ducks have been up to on the Peabody Hotel’s Instagram.
So do tell, have you been to visit the Peabody ducks? And have you ever wondered whether something in a guide book was real before you saw it for yourself?
Speaking of Memphis, you may also like to check out my piece on doing a road trip to some of the deep south’s best music spots.