FLORIDA

Man of the Ducks: Donald Tompkins

A regular guest of Peabody Orlando, Donald Tompkins has always been impressed with the company's traditions and history. So, when a friend alerted him that the property was advertising for a Duck Master, the retiree didn't think twice about applying. Competition was fierce with it being a nationwide search, but Tompkins's resume and interview stood out from the others. Now he's a part of an elite group, one of three Duck Masters in the world.

"I'm very humbled and very proud," he says. "As an America history buff, I'm glad to be a part of this."

Responsible for five ducks, Tompkins provides them with breakfast in their penthouse. However, they only get half of their breakfast, the greens portion, at first. The granular portion comes later when the ducks are in the fountain. He says it's done this way as an enticement to get into the fountain.

While the ducks are enjoying the first half of their breakfast, Tompkins rides down to the lobby to prepare the area for the morning march. He may meet with the honorary Duck Master (if there's one), and explains the history of the march to the spectators.

Once everything is in place, it's show time (or march time) and time to roundup the stars.

"The ducks are wild, we can't force them to do anything," he says. "They walk to the elevator at their own pace. When we reach the lobby and the doors open, the music begins and they basically run (can't fly because one wing is clipped) down the red carpet and jump into the fountain."

"It's a wonderful moment for everyone. It's something everyone feels like they're a part of."

Tompkins spends rest of his day doing administrative/office work, as well as spending time guests in the lobby, answering questions, and if needed, talking with the breeder or vet. And yes, the ducks enjoy a mid-afternoon snack.

"They're very well-fed," he comments.

They also have their own personalities. Tompkins says they can be quite entertaining birds.

He explains they do not name them or touch them, but the ducks have color-coded tags on their legs. Each team has one drake and four hens.

"We have one hen that dominates the team. She leads everything."

The teams are rotated every six months. The other teams are taken care of at a nearby farm. When the ducks are four years old, they are retired from the hotel for life and live out their remaining years at the farm.

The evening round-up begins at 4 p.m., with the march back to the penthouse at 5 p.m., where the ducks will have dinner and rest for the evening. And tomorrow is new day when it all starts over again.

"It's a very fulfilling job that's also a lot fun to do," comments Tompkins. "I'm very fortunate."

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