Tips On Photographing The Smew Duck

Here, Eschenbach share some tips on identifying and photographing the smew duck.

| Animals / Wildlife

Tips On Photographing The Smew Duck: Smew


With a body length that can vary between 37 and 45 centimeters, the smew is by far the smallest of the saw billed ducks. Its size varies so strongly because males can become a lot bigger and heavier than females. Males and females also have a very different plumage during the breeding season.

The male breeding plumage is bright white with delicate black stripes on different body parts. Around the eye lies a round, black spot which reaches the base of the beak. The beautiful crest is hardly visible when it is lowered. The back is black and turns into a faded grey as the tail gets closer. Except for the breeding season, the males look very similar to the females: a dark brown body with brighter flanks and a red-brown neck. Head and face are also brown, the front of the neck and the throat are white. Females have a beak as strong as the males, even if they are slightly smaller.



The smews can be found in northern Sweden, Siberia, Romania, the south-western Baltic Sea regions and South-East Europe. Since smews are migratory birds, they leave their breeding area during winter months and fly for warmer locations like the black sea, the southern baltic sea or the Mecklenburg Baltic Sea coast.

Smews nest in tree cavities and therefore need breeding grounds with many trees. However, as they are also fond of fishy waters, this combination is not so easy to find. They mostly live in tree covered lake islands.



During the winter, the smews mostly feed on small fishes. In summer they add frogs, crabs, worms, insects and plants to their diet.

When the birds return to their breeding area in April and May, most of the couples have already found a tree cavity to nest in. The nest is often several meters above the ground and at some distance from the water. Thus, it is well protected from predators. When the ducklings hatch, they usually stay a day in the nest but very soon their instinct takes over. Despite their small size and absolute lack of experience, they jump out of the nest. Their mother will take care of them for the next two and a half months, teaching them, among many other things, the art of diving.


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