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Conservation status: Amber

The smew is a small compact diving duck with a delicate bill. The male is white with a black mask and a black back, the female is grey with a reddish-brown head and white cheek. In flight, it shows black and white wings. It is a winter visitor in small numbers from Scandinavia and Russia. Sometimes birds move here from Holland and Denmark to escape freezing weather there. Little is known about this bird on its breeding grounds.

Illustrations

Overview

Latin name

Mergus albellus

Family

Swans, ducks and geese (Anatidae)

Where to see them

Most are found south of a line between the Wash and the Severn. Birds sometimes turn up on quite small areas of water so it's worth looking for at any inland lake in winter, particularly in very cold weather.

When to see them

December to March.

What they eat

Fish, insect larvae and other insects.

Population

EuropeUK breeding*UK wintering*UK passage*
--180 birds-

Distribution

Key