Smew Facts You'll Never Forget

Smew facts are amazing

The smew (Mergellus albellus) is a species of duck that is migratory by nature and can rarely be seen in North America during winters. It is often known as redhead smew birds, because of the chestnut forehead of a female smew. This diving duck can be found in lakes and rivers, with a good quantity of fish available for them to feed on. The male smew has black and white plumage with a small bill with a hooked tip and a bushy crest. Their hooked tip bills make it easier for them to catch fish from the lakes. These Mergellus albellus ducks belong to the family of Anatidae and are of the genus Mergellus. The breeding grounds for this species of ducks include northern regions of Europe and Asia. A smew male and female pair breeds in the month of May, when the male smew uses a special kind of call to entice the female. This species of diving ducks is extremely shy-natured and they can be found in small groups or can even travel alone. Smew ducks are also extremely cute to look at and are often considered to share relations with goldeneyes and the mergansers.

If you are fascinated by the smew, then you may want to continue reading the article for more information about the smew duck vs merganser duck and on the smew hen. If you want to learn more about different animals, you can read up on the duck and the golden pheasant too!


Fact File

What do they prey on?

Fish and small aquatic animals

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

0.99-1.43 lb (450–650 g)

How long are they?

15–17 in (38–44 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Male: Black and white Female: Reddish-brown and gray

Skin Type


What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Rivers and lakes


Europe and Asia





Scientific Name

Mergellus albellus





Smew Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a smew?

The smew (Mergellus albellus) is a species of migrant duck.

What class of animal does a smew belong to?

The smew belongs to the Aves class of animals.

How many smews are there in the world?

Currently, the population of smews worldwide stands at 130,000. Although, they have been listed as a Least Concern species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there has been a decline in their population over the years. The main reason behind this is humans who kill these migratory birds, as well as habitat loss.

Where does a smew live?

The smew is a migratory duck and the habitats of the smew duck range from the region of northern Germany and the Black Sea, to the Baltic Sea where they spend their winters. It is rarely seen in regions of North America during this season. A few of these species can also be found in areas in Great Britain. Their breeding grounds generally include the northern regions of Europe and Asia.

What is a smew's habitat?

The smew can be found in lakes filled with an abundant amount of fish, which is their primary food. They can also be seen in rivers with low currents.

Who do smews live with?

Smews are shy birds, therefore they can generally be seen traveling alone, or in very small groups.

How long does a smew live?

The lifespan of an average smew ranges from eight to 10 years.

How do they reproduce?

May is typically considered the breeding season for these birds and their breeding region includes regions of Europe, Asia, and the Palearctic. The incubation period lasts for 26-28 days for a smew female and between seven and eight eggs are laid by the smew female in her nest. A smew nest can be found in tree holes. The offspring (known as ducklings) learn to fly after a period of 10 weeks.

What is their conservation status?

The smew is currently listed as a Least Concern species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), although there has been a decline in their population over recent years.

Smew Fun Facts

What do smews look like?

The physical characteristics of these Eurasian birds differ from male to female. While females have a gray-colored body with a reddish-brown head (this red head is unique among mersangers!), males are covered with white and black feathers. Its bill is cooked at the tip, forming a hook shape, which helps when catching fish from lakes. Its crest is bushy and filled with feathers.

Smew symbolism and smew duck facts are interesting to read.

How cute are they?

Ducks are always cute, and the smew is no exception to that. With their black and white feathers and their small bill, these birds are just adorable to look at.

How do they communicate?

Like many other species of ducks, smews too communicate with each other with a wide range of sounds. These sounds range from coos and whistles to louder calls like grunts and yodels. During the mating season, males exhibit a specific type of sound that sounds like dull squeaking to entice females.

How big is a smew?

The size of a male smew ranges from 15–17 in (38–44 cm) and the average smew wing span ranges from 22-27 in (56–69 cm). They are considered to be the smallest sawbill ducks in the world.

How fast can a smew fly?

Like most other species of ducks, the speed of a smew, while chasing its prey, can reach up to 60 mph (97 kph).

How much does a smew weigh?

Smews are the smallest sawbill ducks and the weight of an adult smew generally lies between 0.99-1.43 lb (450–650 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

The male smew is known by the name, 'drake' smew. While a smew female is simply called a 'duck'.

What would you call a baby smew?

Baby smews are extremely cute and are called ducklings.

What do they eat?

Smews are omnivorous by nature. This bird generally feeds on fish and other small aquatic animals, as well as a few varieties of plant species. Its hooked bill makes it easier for it to catch its prey.

Are they aggressive?

No, smews are not at all aggressive. In fact, they are very peaceful and shy-natured birds. They are solitary creatures who move alone or sometimes form a small group consisting of few individuals.

Would they make a good pet?

Smews are shy-natured birds and the best way to care for them is to leave them as they are in the wild. Ducks, in general, shouldn't be kept as a pet and do not do well in enclosed environments. Although they are sometimes kept in zoos for display, it is best not to keep them captive and take away their freedom. Migratory breeds generally don't make good pets, as they need to be free to travel in their winters.

Did you know...

As per American English, smew is pronounced 'smee-u'.  'Smee' is a term that has been used to refer to wild ducks.

The smew bird was first spotted in the Skamania County of Washington in 1989 in December and then again in 1991 in the months of January and February.

The common names used for a group of smew range from 'flush' and 'padding' to 'raft' and 'team'.

What bird are smews often mistaken as?

Females and immature males are often confused with the ruddy duck, which is a species of duck, found in regions of North America. They both share the same chestnut bodies, which can confuse people from a distance.

What are some other names for a smew?

Smews are a species of ducks that are migratory by nature, that is they travel from one place to another depending on the season. Some of the other common names by which they are called are 'weasel coot' and 'white nun'.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including the grebe, or the Muscovy duck.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our duck coloring pages.



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