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Mergellus albellus

Length: 19 inches Wingspan: 27 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Males distinctive with white plumage, black eye patch, and a darker back.  Females with brown heads, white chin, and grayish-brown body.

Smew - Mergellus albellusThe Smew is a small merganser found in Europe and Asia.  In North America, small numbers regularly show up in the western Aleutian Islands of Alaska in migration and in winter, but they are very rare vagrants elsewhere in North America.  Males show a brilliantly white plumage with interspersed dark markings, while females are more similar to other female Mergansers.

Habitat: During the summer breeding season, Smew are found on lakes and slow-moving rivers.  They require habitat with trees near water bodies, with cavities in trees used for nesting.  They can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats in migration and in winter where ample prey fish are available.

Diet: Diet during migration and in winter primarily consists of small fish.  During the summer breeding season the diet typically expands to include large numbers of aquatic insects and insect larvae, mollusks and crustaceans, small fish, small amphibians, and some plant material, primarily the roots, leaves, and seeds of aquatic or semi-aquatic plants.

Nesting: The nest of a Smew is in a cavity in a tree, often an old woodpecker hole.  . 

Behavior: Smew feed by diving and swimming underwater.  They are gregarious outside of the breeding season, often seen foraging in small flocks.

Migration: The Smew's summer breeding grounds are taiga areas in northern Europe and Asia.   Overwinters in scattered locations in more temperate parts of Europe and Asia.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Smew sightings

Similar Species: Males are distinctive. Females may possibly be confused with other Merganser species.

Conservation Status: There are no major threats to populations of the Smew and the IUCN currently lists it as a species of "Least Concern". 

Further Information: 1) - Smew

2) - Smew

3) - Smew

Photo Information: Photo taken on November 17th, 2011 - Awre, England - Photo by Tony Hisgett - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Smew - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Smew Photos (coming soon!!)