1612. Mergus albellus

1612. Mergus albellus.

The Smew.

Mergus albellus, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 209 (1766); Irby, Ibis, 1861, p. 251; Salvadori, Cat. B. M. xxvii, p. 464. Mergellus albellus, Blyth, Cat. p. 340; Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 818; Blyth, Ibis, 1867, p. 176; Hume, S. F. i, p. 265; Butler & Hume, S. F. iv, p. 31; Butler, S.F. vii, p. 188 ; Ball, ibid. p. 233; Hume, Cat. no. 973; Hume Marsh. Game B. iii, p. 293, pl.; C. Swinh. Ibis, 1882, p. 125; Reid, S. F. x, p. 85; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 417. Nihenne, H. (Etawah, N. W. P.).

Coloration. Male. Greater part of plumage white; a black patch on lores including the eye and gape; the hinder feathers of the crest, the back, and a crescentic band on each side of the breast all black, passing on the rump into the grey of the upper tail-coverts; tail grey-brown ; scapulars mostly white, an outer black border to those on the outside; primaries dark brown, secondaries and their greater coverts black, both with white tips,
tertiaries grey with white borders, the first with the outer web white edged with black; marginal wing-coverts blackish, central coverts white; sides of body and flanks barred with wavy black lines. After breeding the female plumage is assumed for a short

Female. Lores, including the eye, dark brown; crown and nape ferruginous ; upper parts brown, greyish on upper back : wings as in the male; tail brown; lower parts white, breast greyish. Young males resemble females except that they want the brown patch on the lores.

Bill bluish lead-colour; nail generally brown, often paler; irides brown; legs and feet lavender-grey.

Length 17.5; tail 3; wing 8; tarsus 1.3; culmen 1.2; bill' from gape 1.7. Females smaller; wing 7.25.

Distribution. The breeding quarters of this bird are in the extreme North of Europe and Asia ; but in winter it visits Central and Southern Europe, Central Asia, China, and Northern India. Within our limits the Smew is fairly common in winter in the Punjab, and is found in Sind, Northern Guzerat, the North-west Provinces, and Oudh. Jerdon records it from Cuttack, and I met with it more than once near Raniganj in Bengal, but it has not been observed farther east nor in Southern India.

Habits, &c. The Smew is generally found in India from November to March in small or moderate sized flocks, which haunt the larger jheels. It is a splendid diver and swimmer, and when it takes to flight—it generally prefers to dive—a rapid flyer; its food, chiefly fish and water insects, is obtained by diving. The majority of the birds seen in India are immature.

The Fauna Of British India, Including Ceylon And Burma-birds
Blanford, William Thomas, ed. The Fauna of British India: Including Ceylon and Burma. Vol. 4. 1898.
Title in Book: 
1612. Mergus albellus
Book Author: 
William Thomas Blanford
Page No: 
Common name: 
Mergellus albellus
Vol. 4
Term name: 

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