The drakes do not acquire their adult plumage until their second year, until then they closely resemble the female. Adult females and males in eclipse plumage can be differentiated form juveniles by the black patch around the eye, which will be lacking in the young birds of both sexes.
Smew are not an aggressive species, and can be housed with other waterfowl. Smew/Hooded Merganser crosses have been documented, so care should be taken to keep these two closely related species separate.
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Smew are birds of the far north native to Scandinavia. The adult drake is a gloriously marked white bird with fine black lining.
Smew are excellent divers, and feed on mostly fish and invertebrates in their native habitat. In captivity they will need extra protein added to their feed, floating catfish food, or trout pellets are suitable additives.
Like the Hooded Merganser they will also need a good quality of water, a small wading pool may not be adequate for this species.
Smew are cavity nesters, and will use a Wood Duck style box. Breeding season is in early spring. Clutches consist of 6-8 eggs and are incubated for about 28 days.
These Birds have often proved difficult to breed under captive conditions, and the ducklings can be difficult to raise. To get the ducklings off to a good start "wet brooding" is often used and live food such as meal worms may also be helpful.
Because of the special housing and diet needs of this species, along with the difficultly of the young to raise, and the fact that they do not breed until 2 years of year, this is not a species that we would recommend for the beginner.