A recently developed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay was used for diagnosis of duck plague in waterfowl tissues from past and current cases of waterfowl mortality and to identify duck plague virus in combined cloacal/oral-pharyngeal swab samples from healthy mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) after a disease outbreak. The PCR was able to detect viral DNA from all the individual or pooled tissues assayed from 10 waterfowl, including liver and spleen samples from three Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata domesticus) that did not yield virus isolates. The strong staining intensity of the PCR products from the waterfowl tissues indicated that large amounts of virus were present, even when virus was not isolated. Duck plague DNA was also detected in a cloacal swab sample from a wood duck (Aix sponsa) carcass submitted for diagnosis. The PCR assay identified duck plague DNA in 13 swab samples that produced virus isolates from carrier mallards sampled in 1981 after a duck plague die-off. The duck plague PCR clearly demonstrated the ability to quickly diagnose duck plague in suspect mortality cases and to detect virus shed by carrier waterfowl.