Live ducks have paddled in the grand lobby fountain of the Peabody Hotel since 1933. And since 1940 they have performed the "March of the Ducks" twice a day. At 11 AM a red carpet is unfurled, the "King Cotton March" is played, and five mallard ducks ride a special elevator from their Royal Duck Palace on the roof to the hotel lobby, then waddle directly into the stately marble fountain. At 5 PM the procedure is reversed.
On both ends the ducks are led by a human "duckmaster" in a scarlet-and-gold-trimmed jacket. Each duck team only lasts three months before they are retired. The first duckmaster, however, held the job for over 50 years.
The Royal Duck Palace underwent expensive renovations in 2008, upgraded from a metal cage and funky tent enclosure to a modern glass-enclosed penthouse.
Try to arrive early if you want to see the Marches. The Peabody lobby is usually packed with duck-happy shutterbugs jockeying for position.