• Male
  • Male

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Mergellus albellus
The swans, geese and ducks are mid-sized to large birds most commonly found on or near water. Most have plump bodies, long necks and short wings. Most feed while on the water, diving or merely tilting their bodies so that their heads and necks are submerged to search for fish, plants and invertebrates. Washington representatives of the order all belong to one family:
The waterfowl family is represented in Washington by two distinct groups—the geese and swans, and the ducks. Whistling-ducks are also considered a distinct subfamily, and, although they have not been sighted in Washington in many years, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks have been recorded historically in Washington and remain on the official state checklist. All members of the waterfowl family have large clutches of precocial young. They hatch covered in down and can swim and eat on their own almost immediately after hatching.

    General Description

    The male Smew in breeding plumage is dazzling white with black markings on the head, back, and breast, a white crest lined with black, and pale-gray flanks and belly. Other plumages lack the crest and are mostly gray-and-black with white chin and throat and some chestnut on the head. This petite, small-billed diving duck is a close relative of the mergansers as well as of the Bufflehead and the goldeneyes. It nests in tree cavities—mostly old woodpecker holes—across the taiga belt of northern Eurasia, wintering south into temperate zones, where it prefers freshwater sites.

    Smews visit the Aleutians annually in small numbers, but they are extremely rare winter visitors to the rest of North America outside Alaska. Washington’s first record was found in Skamania County in two successive winters (December 1989 and January–February 1991). This bird was also observed on the other side of the Columbia River in Oregon. The second Washington record was at McKenna (Pierce County) in March 1993. A second Oregon record occurred in 2001. California has about three records and British Columbia about five.

    Revised June 2007

    Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

    View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern