The purpose of this study was to compare fertility and early embryo mortality rates (< or = 5 days of incubation) following artificial insemination (AI) of common duck females (Anas Platyrhynchos) with semen from either common or Muscovy (Cairina Moschata) drakes at various periods of the reproductive season (Period I, 27-35 weeks; Period II, 39-43 weeks and Period III, 49-56 weeks). Based on observations performed by stereomicroscopy on eggs laid from Days 2 to 10 after AI, we confirmed that fertility was significantly lower in the interbred compared to the purebred cross at each of the periods tested (purebred 58.1, 61.2 and 54.2 versus crossbred 31.0, 40.4 and 39.5 at Periods I, II and II, respectively; 0.01 < P < 0.001). In a complementary experiment, we demonstrated that the number of perivitelline spermatozoa (NPS) was markedly lower in mule (crossbred) eggs compared to common (purebred) eggs, a strong indication that initial sperm selection occurring in the lower oviduct is probably more intense after crossbred compared to purebred insemination. Comparison of early embryo mortality (EEM) between mule and common duck eggs indicated that increased levels of EEM in mule embryos corresponded to Stages II-IV of the Eyal-Giladi and Kochav classification (EGK). While a similar age-dependent increase in early embryo mortality was observed in eggs from both genetic origins during the latter periods of the reproductive season, it was also established that embryo mortality due to parental age was related rather to Stages X-XIV of the EGK classification in eggs from both genetic origins. It is concluded that the relative subfertility of mule compared to common duck eggs is probably the consequence of a more intense rate of selection of heterologous than homologous spermatozoa occurring in the vaginal portion of the oviduct while the causal origins of EEM in mule duck eggs can at least in part be identified on the basis of precise staging (by stereomicroscopy) of dead embryos.