Thursday, 7 February 2013

Birds in Focus - Smew

The Smew is a small compact diving duck with a delicate bill. The male is white with a black mask and a black back, and for this reason it is sometimes called a 'White Nun'.

In flight, it shows black and white wings. It is a winter visitor in small numbers from Scandinavia and Russia. Sometimes birds move here from Holland and Denmark to escape freezing weather there. Little is known about this bird on its breeding grounds.

The female Smew is grey with a reddish-brown head and white cheek and the juvenile birds are very similar to the females. For this reason they are often collectively called Red Head Smews.

Most are found south of a line between the Wash and the Severn. Birds sometimes turn up on quite small areas of water so it's worth looking for at any inland lake in winter, particularly in very cold weather. In the UK Smews can be seen from December to March and they eat fish, insect larvae and other insects.

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