The black and white male Smew is one of our most beautiful waterfowl species. The Smew, breeding in cavities in trees, is a species of the northern taiga, and in Europe, it only breeds in Finland and in Sweden. Until the 1950’s the population was in sharp decline, and there was concern about the future of the species. The population suffered from egg collecting and from forced egg laying. The numbers of Smew have grown in recent years because of active nest box building, among other things. Nowadays it is evaluated that 2 000 – 3 000 pairs of Smew breed in Finland. This is almost one third of the total number of Smew breeding in Europe. The species is most common in Eastern Lapland, and it is almost totally absent from the species breeding in Southern Finland.
Smew breeds by various kinds of lakes and ponds and in puddle bogs. Due to lack of nesting places, Smew can sometimes breed in the same nest box as the Common Goldeneye. Smews and Common Goldeneyes can even crossbreed. In the autumn, Smews migrate mainly to the southern parts of the Baltic Sea, though these days some individuals overwinter in Finland. Like other mergansers, the main nutrition of Smew consists of small fish and small aquatic animals.
Text: Jukka Jokimäki & Marja-Liisa Kaisanlahti-Jokimäki
Read more about Smew:
Flying Arctic -frontpage.