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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Jouko Lehmuskallio, M. & W. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Smew

Mergellus albellus

  • Latin synonym: Mergus albellus
  • Family: Waterfowl – Anatidae
  • Appearance: A small member of the subfamily sawbill ducks. Males are very white in appearance. Females resemble slim Goldeneye female, but have white throat and neck. Wing panels black.
  • Size: Length 38–44 cm, wingspan 56–69 cm, weight 450–650 g.
  • Nest: In a hole or nest box.
  • Breeding: 7–11 eggs laid in May, incubated by female for 26–28 days. Ducklings leave the nest soon after hatching and learn to find food for themselves, though they stay together as a brood with their mother. They learn to fly within about 10 weeks.
  • Distribution: Scarce breeder by inland waters in Northern Finland. Most numerous around Salla and Kuusamo. Finnish breeding population estimated at 1,000–2,000 pairs.
  • Migration: Flies south October–December, returning April–May. Winters in the Baltic Sea or Western or Central Europe. A few birds may winter in Finland.
  • Diet: Fish, Invertebrates.
  • Calls: Male’s mating call a dull squeaking sound followed by a hiccup-like sound.

Smews are the smallest sawbill ducks, about the size of a Goldeneye. Males are the palest ducks found in Finland, and they may be mistaken for pale gulls when swimming. Their manly white plumage has black markings between the beak and eyes, on the back of the neck and in the middle of the back. Males appear darker in flight than when swimming, since their wings are mainly black except near the base, where they are white with two lengthwise black bars. Females generally resemble female Goldeneyes, but they are more slender and have white colouring on their necks extending onto their cheeks forming a sharp boundary with their reddish brown caps. They have the same patterning on their wings as males. Smews have grey legs, grey beaks with a pale tip, and reddish brown irises (pearly grey on older males).

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