Animal of the Month : Smew Duck

Female (left) and Male Smew

The Smew is a striking little merganser found primarily in Eurasia (mostly Russia and Scandinavia), though some sightings have placed them in British Columbia, Alaska, and even the state of Washington. These sightings are fairly rare, however. Since no other duck in North America or even Canada looks close to the Smew, getting them mixed up with another species of duck would be impossible. They summer on lakes and slow rivers that are filled with fish. In the winter, they head to more sheltered coastal areas or inland parts of the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and Northern Germany.

During the nesting season, the female Smew looks for a woodpecker hole or other holes in trees, much like a wood duck will here in North America, in which to lay her eggs.

The female has a brown/red head, white throat and white cheek patch. Penciled lines cover her chest. Her mate is a bright white overall with black patches on the face and head, sides, and back. He also has some penciled lines on the sides of the breast and flanks. Both males and females have the signature pointed looking bill of a merganser.

The Smew is a diving duck that eats fish, larvae, and insects. In our aviary here at Lifesprings Farm, a special treat is dried mealworms and the friendly little ducks will almost get underfoot as they wait for their mealworms to be tossed into the water.

The Smew, or Mergus Albellus, is a lively little merganser that is not only beautiful, but is also lively and fun to watch. A bonus is its friendliness.

Published by Jeff and Rita

Rita is a wife, mother, homesteader, library branch manager, and freelance writer. She enjoys spending time in the garden and later preserving the harvest. Gardening, knitting, tending to chickens and other critters, and taking long summer walks are among her favorite activities. Jeff has had a long time love of waterfowl and gamebirds. He spends his time working full-time as a medical courier when he is not enjoying his collection of wild ducks and pheasants from around the world.

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