(Mergellus albellus)




Facts about this animal

The smew is a small sea duck strongly aquatic in its lifestyle and an excellent diver. It is characterised by a bills with a hooked tip and serrated edges, used for catching fish. The body-weight of males ranges from 540 to 940 g, of females about from 700 to 800 g.

Males in nuptial plumage are strikingly white with some black bars, a conspicuous black face mask and a frontal crest which is elevated during display. Females and males in eclipse have whitish underparts, a reddish-brown head, and bluish-grey to blackish upper parts

Nest sites are preferably in tree cavities. e.g. old woodpecker nests. 6 to 9 creamy-buff eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female alone for 28 days.

The food of the smew consists mainly of small fish.

Did you know?
that the smew appears to be an evolutionary link between the larger Mergus species and the goldeneyes? Inded smew often associate with common goldeneye and the two species have been known to hybridize. Both readily accept artificial nest boxes, and in some cases broods of mixed species may merge.


Class AVES
Suborder ANSERES
Name (Scientific) Mergellus albellus
Name (English) Smew
Name (French) Harle piette
Name (German) Zwergsäger
Name (Spanish) Serrata chica
Local names Czech: Morcák bílý
Dutch: Nonnetje
Estonian: Väikekoskel, Pudukoskel
Finnish: Uivelo
Greek: Nanoprístis
Hungarian: Kis bukó
Italian: Pesciaiola
Polish: Bielaczek
Portuguese: Merganso pequeno
Romansh: Marel pitschen
Swedish: Salskrake
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Appendix II (as Anatidae spp.) Included in AEWA



Photo Copyright by
Sławomir Staszczuk



Range The smew has a wide distribution on the Northern Hemisphere: North Africa: Egypt, vagrants in Algeria and Tunisia Asia: Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, PDR, Korea, Rep., Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan Europe: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, former Yug. Rep., Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russian Fed., Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and vagrants in some Mediterranean countries. North America: Canada, United States
Habitat Freshwater wetlands
Wild population The global population is estimated to be 130,000 to 210,000 individuals by Wetlands International (2002).
Zoo population 223 reported to ISIS (2006).

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 18 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by

Why do zoos keep this animal

The smew is not a threatened species. Zoos keep them for educational purposes and as an ambassador species for wetland conservation. Due to its small body size it is a very handy species for being kept in aviaries.