GREAT FALLS — Standing in what is known as the Honker Hilton in Great Falls, the winter home of the waterfowl from the city’s Gibson Park pond, the name Honker Hilton is rather self-explanatory.
"The building's heated, it's all indoors,” said Great Falls Parks & Recreation Parks Manager Lonnie Dalke.
There are two small indoor pools and an outdoor green space for the birds to enjoy.
"They go out there quite a bit during the day. We always bring them in at night,” said Dalke.
For the 2022 season, there are about 40 birds.
"We check on them every day, drain the pond and then fill it once a day,” Dalke said.
The birds are fed out of a trough containing a mix of grains, and as you can probably imagine, keeping them fed all winter long requires quite a lot of grain.
"We give them a good five-gallon bucket of feed every day,” Dalke said.
The birds were rounded up and placed in the Honker Hilton on Friday, October 21, during an event that draws dozens of spectators.
"When we bring them in off the pond, we actually catch them down there at the pond. We actually have a little pen, cage, corral area,” Dalke explained. "A lot of them have been through the routine numerous years so they're kind of the leaders and help get the ducks in the cages."
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The roundup can sometimes be tricky but is always worthwhile to keep these fine, feathered city residents happy, healthy, and honking until spring.
The birds will be in the Honker Hilton until sometime in April when the weather warms up enough for them to be released back into Gibson Pond.
Gibson Pond "waterfowl roundup" from October 2021: