The drake Smew, with its 'cracked ice' and 'panda' appearance, is unmistakable, and looks very black-and-white in flight. The females and immature males are grey birds with chestnut foreheads and crowns, and can be confused at a distance with the Ruddy Duck; they are often known as `redhead` Smew. It has oval white wing-patches in flight. The Smew's bill has a hooked tip and serrated edges, which help it catch fish when it dives for them. The Smew is 38-44 cm (15-17 in) long.
Habitat and Distribution
This species breeds in the northern taiga of Europe and Asia. It needs trees for breeding. The Smew lives on fish-rich lakes and slow rivers. As a migrant it leaves its breeding areas and winters on sheltered coasts or inland lakes of the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, northern Germany and the Low Countries, with a small number reaching Great Britain. mostly at regular sites. Vagrants have been recorded in North America. On lakes it prefers areas around the edges, often under small trees.
The Smew breeds in May and lays 6-9 cream-colored eggs. It nests in tree holes, such as old woodpecker nests.