duckDNA Results Summary

Here is what you helped us accomplish in the 2023-2024 hunting season

Applicant & Participants

Exciting news from Ducks Unlimited! Out of 4,200 applicants from 49 states, we selected 309 participants from 47 states for our duckDNA pilot project. With 721 samples submitted, we're thrilled by the enthusiasm and dedication shown by our participants. Let's look at what we discovered for our duckDNA pilot project during the 2023-24 hunting season!

Locations of Submitted Samples


Flyway Breakdown

Active Participants

Atlantic - 52

Mississippi - 108

Central - 64

Pacific - 42


Atlantic - 84

Mississippi - 369

Central - 108

Pacific - 64

Unknown - 96 (submitted without harvest location)

Notable Findings

  • Across all samples, we detected genetic material of 15 different duck species.
  • We found several examples of 3-species hybrids, the result of a hybrid individual breeding with a species different than either of its parent species! All involved breedings among mallard-like species.
  • Hybrids between mallards and mallard-like species were identifiable to first (F1) and second (F2) generations. First generation corresponds to the offspring resulting from the breeding between two genetically pure individuals (e.g., 100% Wild Mallard × 100% American Black Duck). Second generation corresponds to the offspring resulting from the breeding between a hybrid individual and a genetically pure individual.

Hybrid Combinations

A unique outcome of the duckDNA project was the ability to confirm the genetic ancestry of hybrid ducks. Across all 721 samples, including those submitted specifically for hybrid testing, we documented 19 different hybrid combinations! Particularly exciting was learning that for all Mallard × Gadwall hybrids, commonly known as Brewer’s ducks, mitochondrial DNA analysis revealed that these were the result of breeding between male gadwall and female mallards! It was previously assumed that male mallards were the most likely source of mallard genes in these hybrids. Here is the complete list of hybrids detected during the 2023-24 season.


Wild Mallard x Game-Farm Mallard

Wild Mallard x American Black Duck

Wild Mallard x American Wigeon

Wild Mallard x Gadwall

Wild Mallard x Wood Duck

West Gulf Coast Mottled Duck x Game-Farm Mallard

Domestic Goose x Canada Goose

Florida Mottled Duck x Wild Mallard

Florida Mottled Duck x Game-Farm Mallard

Florida Mottled Duck x West Gulf Coast Mottled Duck

Game-Farm Mallard x Domestic Duck

Muscovy x Wild Mallard

Muscovy x Wood Duck

Wild Mallard x American Black Duck x Game-Farm Mallard

Mexican Duck x Game-Farm Mallard x Wild Mallard

Game-Farm Mallard x Wild Mallard x West Gulf Coast Mottled Duck

American Black Duck x Game-Farm Mallard

American Black Duck x Florida Mottled Duck

Mexican Duck x Wild Mallard

Percentage of Wild Mallard Ancestry

An emerging point of interest among scientists is the frequency and amount of game-farm mallard genetics that appear in the genome of harvested mallards.This graph shows the number of mallard samples; including wild, game-farm, and wild x game-farm hybrids; containing different percentages of wild mallard genetics. Individuals with ≥95% wild ancestry were considered genetically pure, while individuals with <95% wild mallard ancestry revealed from genetic analysis were considered hybrids. Essentially, this graph illustrates the relative distribution of pure wild mallards and wild x game-farm hybrids within our sample of “mallards” submitted to duckDNA during the 2023–24 pilot season*. 


*Data depicted in this graph were not obtained from a truly random sample of harvested ducks during the 2023–24 season, and thus are not representative of the larger population of mallards in the United States.