Mergellus albellus   (Linnaeus,  1758) (Bird)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Aves

Image copyright: pbase

Male: Predominantly a white duck with black eye-patch having green reflections; a broad black band from behind eye to nape; short drooping nuchal crest; black back with two black streaks diverging from its anterior end down each side of white breast. Grey body sides and tail; white flanks, finely barred with black; pale grey on underside of tail; dark slaty bill; slaty-black legs, feet and webs. Female: Forehead, crown, nape and short nuchal crest chestnut-red. Throat and sides of head white: back greyish-brown; breast and flanks grey, remaining underparts white. Male (in eclipse): Differs from female in larger white wing-bar; darker lesser wing-coverts; and two black crescent bands on sides of breast.

Voice Usually silent

Habits: Sociable occurs in small flocks, only occasionally large groups, fast swimmer and diurnal feeder by diving, swift flier.

Synonym (s)
Mergus albellus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common Name (s)
• Smew (English)
• Matsya bhoj (Gujarati)
• Nikenne (Hindi)
Economic Importance and Threats
Threats:  Natural threats
(The species has also suffered local declines as a result of predation by American mink Neovison vison, and is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus.)
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(Where it occurs in large numbers on coastal waters the species is particularly vulnerable to oil pollution. Populations declined in Europe throughout the 19th and 20th centuries due to habitat degradation and loss (e.g. the loss of mature trees in river valleys as a result of logging, conversion to agriculture and river canalisation))
Importance:  Commercial
(The species is susceptible to a certain amount of hunting pressure when on passage and during the winter)

Habitat:  Estuarine, Coastal
Trophic Level:  Consumer
Prey:  Mainly fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic insects and their larvae, worms, etc.
IUCN Status:  Least Concern


• Orissa, Cuttack Coast INDIA
• Hazaribagh, Jharkhand INDIA
• West Bengal, Ranigani (Lat: 23.60) (Long: 87.12) INDIA
• Delhi, Okhla barrage bird sanctuary INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • PBase Available at -
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Available at -
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Manakadan R and Pittie A (2001) Standardized English names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent BUCEROS Envis Newsletter: Avian ecology and inland wetland 6(1) 26pp Available at -
  • Vernacular names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent Buceros, Envis newsletter: Avian Ecology & Inland Wetlands 62pp Available at -
  • Kumar A, sati JP and Tak CK (2003) Checklist of Indian Waterbids Buceros Envis Newsletter: Avian ecology and inland wetlands 8(1) 30pp Available at -
  • Ali S and Ripley SD (1968) Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan Oxford university press 1 1-368pp Available at - NIO
  • Urfi AJ (2003) The birds of Okhla barrage bird sanctuary, Delhi, India Forktail 19 39-50pp Available at -

Page last updated on:2013-03-11

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