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The iconic Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee has been a favorite destination for travelers since 1933. It is famous for its opulence and Southern hospitality but one of its most beloved features is the procession of mallard ducks that swim in the lobby fountain each day. The history of these ducks is an interesting one that goes all the way back to 1932 when General Manager Edward Pembroke put into practice an idea from his hunting companion.
The History of Peabody Ducks:
The unique tradition began in 1932 when hotel General Manager Edward Pembroke was visited by a hunting companion with an unusual request. He asked if he could put some live duck decoys in the lobby fountain to attract more birds on their hunt, requesting that they be released at dawn each morning and retrieved at dusk. After experimenting with this strange idea, Pembroke found it to be effective and began having a weekly duck parade with real Mallard ducks on Thursdays instead of relying on decoys.
The weekly parade became so popular that people would wait outside for the arrival of the mallards as tourists flocked to see them in action. The spectacle drew so much attention that it became a permanent part of the Peabody Hotel experience beginning in 1940 when five duck families established residence at the hotel’s Grand Lobby fountain. Since then, there have been more than 40 different families who’ve lived at or traveled through The Peabody—all overseen by animal caretaker and Duckmaster Jimmy McCluskey who’s called “The Duck Whisperer” due to his special relationship with the flightless four-legged friends.
Each morning before the procession begins, Mr. McCluskey leads his flock up from their overnight lodgings and delivers them breakfast – usually lettuce and corn – which they enjoy swimming around in before settling down for lunch right around noon while guests look on in admiration from nearby tables or benches set aside just for non-human spectators. Then after taking their mealtime swim (sometimes lasting up to three hours) they ride two elevators up 11 stories to their rooftop home known as “Peabody Park” where they lay eggs and rest until dinner time before continuing their iconic procession down one final time just moments before dusk ends each unforgettable day.
What started as an unlikely experiment has become a timeless tradition that makes visiting The Peabody even more memorable for guests both young and old alike! So, if you’re ever looking for something special to do on your next trip or if you simply want witness first-hand one of Nashville’s most beloved attractions—the history behind The Peabody Ducks will certainly not disappoint!
Q: When did the Peabody Hotel’s duck march start?
A: The tradition of the ducks’ march at the Peabody Memphis began in 1933 when four live ducks from Arkansas were taken up to the hotel’s roof to enjoy a fountain located up there. Their stay was soon lengthened and thus, every single day, they now go from their rooftop home down to the lobby Grand Fountain at 11am, where they enjoy a splash around for twenty minutes under the escort of their red-coated Duckmaster.
Q: How often do the ducks get changed?
A: According to traditions established by Frank Schutt (the first Duckmaster), new pairs of domestic mallard ducks are brought in each year and remain at The Peabody until they are no longer able to march.
Q: What is a Duckmaster?
A: A Duckmaster is responsible for overseeing all aspects of caring for the five North American mallards that reside on the rooftop and operate The Peabody Ducks Marching routines. He feeds them, escorts them during processions and ceremonies, educates visitors about their history, and helps maintain their health by making sure nothing disrupts their daily routine or environment.
Q: What happens after their “stay” with The Peabody?
A: After retirement (usually 10-15 years) from their job entertaining guests, our Ducks typically continue nesting in and around our scenic ponds here at The Peabody. Occasionally some decide to migrate elsewhere and we hope that wherever they end up they bring happiness just like they have done while staying with us!
Q: Where did these Ducks originally come from?
A: These North American Mallards originate from Arkansas but now spend most of their days living in luxury suites on top of The Peabody Memphis hotel!
Q: Are there any special occasions involving these Ducks?
A: Yes. Special occasion marches involve decorated wagons pulled by pet goats rather than having them walking along beside people like the daily seven day marches. So far we have only seen this occur a few times within living memory including St Patrick’s Day (2013), Easter (2015), Juliwelt (2017) and Broadway Sundays (2018).
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