What is duckDNA?

The duckDNA project is a new community science initiative launched by Ducks Unlimited and the University of Texas at El Paso that will provide scientific information on issues affecting North America’s wild ducks. The 2023–24 hunting season is serving as a pilot year for the project, and its continuation in future years will depend on the level of interest shown by hunters. Thanks to our generous supporters, participation in duckDNA is entirely free of charge.

Recent science has shown that an alarming percentage of presumed wild mallards result from hybridization with game-farm (released) mallards. Ongoing studies suggest wild x game-farm mallard hybrids may be poorly adapted to natural habitats.

This project will help determine how prevalent this issue is and whether it is spreading across North America. Data collected through duckDNA will also enable scientists to study how genetics may influence waterfowl behavior, migration, habitat use, breeding site origins, and much more.

During the 2023–24 hunting season, we will select up to 300 hunters to participate. Each hunter will be asked to collect a tissue sample for genetic analysis from 5 harvested ducks, providing a total of 1,500 samples.


Hunters interested in participating should sign up via the "Apply Today" button to be entered into a drawing that will determine this year’s group of lucky participants. If selected, hunters will receive an e-mail notifying them to create a personalized duckDNA account, after which they will be mailed an all-inclusive kit for sample collection.

The first group of participants, roughly half the total sample, will be selected in early October. Additional participants will be selected in early December.

Participating hunters will be asked to collect a small piece of tissue from 5 harvested ducks, preferably a piece of the tongue, and answer a few simple questions for each sampled duck through their online duckDNA account. Hunters can also provide photographs of their sampled ducks for use in additional studies of waterfowl hybridization. Hunters will return tissue samples via pre-paid postage included with the kit. 

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After analysis, duckDNA participants will receive a “Certificate of Purity” (or “Certificate of Parentage” for hybrids) for each submitted sample. The certificate will report their duck's genetic composition, parentage, and other cool scientific insights!

For the pilot year, we will focus on mallards, other mallard-like ducks (i.e., American black duck, Mexican duck, and mottled duck), and presumed hybrids. However, other interesting ducks will be accepted. Learn more about collection instructions here.