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Bird name:


Mergellus albellus




Geese and Ducks (Anatidae)





Euring 5

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Breeding Location:

Taiga, Lakes, wooded shores, Woodlands

Breeding Type:


Egg Colour:

Smooth, slightly glossy and creamy.

Number of Eggs:

6 - 9

Incubation Days:

26 - 28

Egg Incubator:


Nest Material:

Lined with feathers and down.

Nest Location:

In a tree hollow.




Smew: Fairly small duck with rather narrow, grey bill. White with crested head, black around eye and on hindcrown. Two black lines on side of breast, and black back. Grey lower back and tail, flanks with fine grey barring. Dark grey wings with white wing patch. Fast, direct flight. Adult female with pale brown on top of crest, and brown on head and nape. Black around eye, white throat, breast, and belly. Back, wings, tail, and flanks grey, white patch in wings. Juvenile like winter female but darker brown on head and darker grey body.

Range and Habitat

Smew: Scarce winter visitor to the UK & Ireland. Birds arrive from Scandinavian breeding grounds, and can be seen from late autumn until spring. Birds are most likely seen in south England from Norfolk to Cornwall. Look for them on lakes, and ponds or at the coast. More birds are seen in especially cold years.

Breeding and Nesting

Smew: Breeds in the shallow waters of lakes, pools, and slow-moving rivers. Nests are in holes or hollows of mature broadleaf trees such as oak, willow, and aspen. May re-use Woodpecker holes or use nest boxes. Female prepares nest and incubates eggs. Male leaves during incubation.

Foraging and Feeding

Smew: Feeds on mainly fish, insects, some crustaceans like mollusks. Occasionally will eat plant matter like seeds, leaves or roots. Its bill has a hooked tip and serrated edges help hold its prey.


Smew: Gives a sharp "krrr" note.

Similar Species

Smew: Long-tailed Duck has grey eyepatch, black cheek, the bill is black with an orange band, it has all-black underwings and a very long tail.

The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The upper front part of a bird.
Tufts of feathers on the head of the bird.
Also called the hindneck or collar, it is the back of the neck where the head joins the body.
4 and 6 letter alpha codesX

The four letter common name alpha code is is derived from the first two letters of the common first name and the first two letters of common last name. The six letter species name alpha code is derived from the first three letters of the scientific name (genus) and the first three letters of the scientific name (species). See (1) below for the rules used to create the codes..

Four-letter (for English common names) and six-letter (for scientific names) species alpha codes were developed by Pyle and DeSante (2003, North American Bird-Bander 28:64-79) to reflect A.O.U. taxonomy and nomenclature (A.O.U. 1998) as modified by Supplements 42 (Auk 117:847-858, 2000) and 43 (Auk 119:897-906, 2002). The list has been updated by Pyle and DeSante to reflect changes reported by the A.O.U from 2003 through 2006.


The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) was established in the mid-1990 s as a cooperative project among several federal agencies to improve and expand upon taxonomic data (known as the NODC Taxonomic Code) maintained by the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

To find the ITIS page for a bird species go to the ITIS web site advanced search and report page at You can enter the TSN or the common name of the bird. It will return the ITIS page for that bird. Another way to obtain the ITIS page is to use the Google search engine. Enter the string ITIS followed by the taxonomic ID, for example "ITIS 178041" will return the page for the Allen's Hummingbird.

Parts of a Standing birdX
Head Feathers and MarkingsX
Parts of a Flying birdX