Smew - Mergus albellus

Alt Name
Mergellus albellus

The Smew is a small compact diving duck with a delicate bill. The male is white with a black mask and 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.

Photo ID?

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 out for at any inland lake in winter, particularly in very cold weather.

When to see it

December to March.

Life History

It breeds in the northern taiga of Europe and Asia using trees holes such as old woodpecker nests. It lives on fish-rich lakes and slow rivers.

UK Status

Widespread but uncommon

VC55 Status

An uncommon winter bird in Leicestershire and Rutland

Leicestershire & Rutland Map

UK Map