Male smews have a white crested head with a black face and v-shaped black patch beneath the crest. The back and rump are dark gray to black and the flanks are vermiculated white and black. The breast is white with two black stripes extending forward from the back. The wings are blackish-gray with white wing patches. The long narrow serrated bill is black and the legs and feet are grayish. Female: Female smews have a chestnut head with a white cheek patch, chin, and throat. The breast and flanks are dull gray and the upperparts are dark gray. The wings are dark gray with white wing patches. The bill, legs, and feet are similar to the males.
Smews prefer forested wetland systems during breeding and winter on lakes, rivers, and estuaries, also on inland water.
Mergellus albellus breeds mainly in northern Russia and Fennoscandia, with Europe
accounting for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding
population is small (as few as 5,300 pairs), and its range contracted markedly between
1970-1990. Although most European populations-including the sizeable one in
Finland-were stable or increased during 1990-2000, the stronghold population in
Russia declined, and the species underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall.
Smews dive to feed on small fishes and aquatic invertebrates
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 130,000-210,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
The smew breeds from northern Scandinavia east through northern and central Russia and northern Siberia. There are no breeding records of the smew in North America. Smews prefer forested wetland systems where they nest in tree cavities or nest boxes and lay an average of 6 to 9 eggs.
Migratory. Small to moderate numbers wintering northern parts Germany, also Denmark, Netherlands, and Britain, must account for breeders of Fenno-Scandia; but also some from north-west Russia. Dividing line in Russia between breeders migrating west to Baltic and North Seas, and much larger numbers going south to Balkans and south Russia, not known. Winters commonly Sea of Azov, with smaller numbers in western Black Sea, Hungary, northern Greece, and Turkey; on Caspian Sea largest flocks in west. Small numbers pass south from Caspian into Iraq and Iran. Additionally, occurs in winter irregularly or in very small numbers in southern Norway and Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, and (especially in hard weather) central and western European countries south to Mediterranean. Much rarer in western Mediterranean basin than in east.
Autumn departures from breeding areas begin September, completed early October; main passage through Swedish hinterland and Baltic countries mid-October to November, early records North Sea countries October but main arrivals not until December or January following cold weather further east. Proportion of adult males highest northern Germany, falling to south and west; in England females and juveniles far outnumber adult males. Return movement conspicuous by March, and most wintering waters vacated then; stragglers in April and even May, and immatures often summer south of breeding ranges.
- spanwidth min.: 60 cm
- spanwidth max.: 69 cm
- size min.: 38 cm
- size max.: 44 cm
- incubation min.: 26 days
- incubation max.: 28 days
- fledging min.: 0 days
- fledging max.: 0 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 6
- eggs max.: 10
- Conservation Status
- Lophodytes albellus
- Mergellus albellus
- EU widespread