›      ›   Smew - Mergellus albellus.

The smew (Mergellus albellus) is a medium sized duck belonging to the family Anatidae. The smew species is distributed in Europe and Asia. The smew is a occasional visitor to Indian Subcontinent.

Taxonomy of Smew

  • Scientific Name: Mergellus albellus
  • Common Name: Smew
  • French: Harle piette; German: Zwergs├Ąger; Spanish: Serreta chica;
  • Other names: Mergus Albellus Linnaeus, 1758;
  • Family: Anatidae › Anseriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Mergellus albellus was previously included in the genus Mergus. The smew species is closely related to common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula).

Indian birds - Smew - Mergellus albellus
Indian birds - Smew - Mergellus albellus


The smew is a medium sized bird and the male is larger than the female. The male smew measures, 35 to 45 cm in length and weighs 550 to 950 grams. The female weighs 500 to 650 grams. the wingspan is 55 to 70 cm. These smew species have a cracked ice appearance and with black-white pattern during flight. The females appear with chestnut forehead and crown. The bill has a hooked tip and serrated edges.


The smew species inhabit, freshwater lakes, reservoirs, flooded woods, ice-free rivers, sheltered bays, estuaries, lagoons and tidal creeks.

Feeding habits

The smew species feed by diving in the water. They feed on aquatic plants, insects, crustaceans, molluscs, other invertebrates, frogs and fish.


The breeding season is during April and May. They are seasonally monogamous. These species nest in tree holes. The female smew lays 6–9 cream-colored eggs.


The smew species breed in the northern taiga of Europe and Asia. They winter in sheltered coasts or inland lakes of the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, Great Britain, Caspian Sea, East China, Korea and Japan.

Movement Patterns

The smew species are highly migratory, arriving at the breeding grounds from April onwards. They leave breeding grounds for wintering from early-September onwards.

Status and conservation

The global population of the species is estimated to be 130,000 individual birds. The species have large range and are considered least vulnerable. Hunting of the migrating birds and habitat destruction are the main threats for their conservation.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these smew species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Mergellus albellus
Species:M. albellus
Binomial name:Mergellus albellus
Distribution:Asia, Europe, Asia and occasionally Indian Subcontinent;
Feeding habits:crustaceans, molluscs, other invertebrates, fish and aquatic plants;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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