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Small numbers spend the winter moths in Dorset in most years 

Photograph by: 
Ian Ballam

Smew (Mergus albellus) are members of the sawbill or merganser group of ducks; they are small diving ducks that can occasionally be found on lakes or in sheltered coastal water in Dorset in winter.  They are more likely to be seen further east and in some winters we do not see them at all here. Like many ducks they breed in the Arctic and many spend the winter on the northern coasts of Europe and they are not really common anywhere in Britain.

In the time I have been collecting data for the Nature of Dorset (and that was from 1st January 2017) until the time of writing in autumn 2019 there have been reports of just one bird in January 2017 in Holes Bay in Poole Harbour so that shows how scarce they are here in Dorset.


Common Name Smew
Scientific Name Mergus albellus
Species Group Birds Ducks
Status Rare
Interest Level
  • 01 - January
Look for

Greyish, small, compact ducks frequently diving

Identification Notes
  • A very scarce, even rare, visitor to Dorset tending to be more numerous further east
  • Male and females very different in colour in summer but in winter much less so
  • There small, compact bodies are quite unlike most other ducks that you will see here 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Ducks