Smew – Accepted

1. 19 Dec 1981–18 Feb 1982

AHY male

Foster City SM



Fig. 25, ph., AB 36:326

and 01 Dec 1982–13 Feb 1983





and 19 Dec 1983–22 Jan 1984





2. 20 Jan–29 Feb 2000

ASY male

vic. Tracy SJ





Smew – Not accepted, identification not established

14 Feb 1995


Buena Vista Lake KER








Figure 25. The first Smew found in California was this adult male in Foster City, San Mateo County. This photograph was taken on 30 January 1983, during the second of three winters that the bird spent at this location (1981-095, Ray Ekstrom).


SMEW Mergellus albellus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Accepted: 2 (67%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 1

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 0

Color image: none

This small merganser breeds across northern Eurasia, from Scandinavia east to Kamchatka. The wintering grounds lie in parts of central and southern Europe and Asia, from southeastern England to eastern China and Japan. The species migrates rarely but regularly through the western Aleutian Islands and casually to the Pribilof Islands and Kodiak Island. British Columbia claims at least five well-documented records—all of males in the southwestern portion of the province—including one of a first-winter male 28 February–21 March 1974 that apparently returned the following winter (R. Toochin in litt.). Washington adds three records involving four males, including one present along the border between Washington and Oregon during two consecutive winters. Most recently, an adult male was found inland at Malheur NWR, Oregon, 26–28 February 2001. Other vagrants—some with debatable origins—have occurred in Missouri/Illinois (NAB 55:176), Wisconsin, southern Ontario, New York, and Rhode Island.

California’s first Smew—an adult male present from 19 December 1981 to 18 February 1982 in Foster City, San Mateo County—returned for two more winters (Figure 25). The state’s only other record also involves an adult male, this one inland along Old River in San Joaquin County from 20 January to 29 February 2000. Thus adult males account for ten of 11 Smews found in the West south of Alaska, a fact that fuels speculation that some may have been escapees. Such suspicions apply more to California’s second record, of a bird far from the coast, than to the first, of a coastal bird that apparently migrated on schedule to return for two additional winters. Two other multiwinter records, one involving a first-year bird, strengthen the case for natural vagrancy to the West south of Alaska. Note, however, the 1992 report that “at least eight to ten people in British Columbia and Washington [keep] captive Smews, which sometimes escape and are not reported” (AB 46:304). A 10 March 2005 query of the International Species Information System yielded listings of 89 captive Smews at zoos and other participating institutions in North America, including two each in San Diego County and Washington.


COMMON EIDER Somateria mollissima (Linnaeus, 1758) – see Appendix H

[MASKED DUCK Nomonyx dominicus (Linnaeus, 1766) – see hypothetical section]

[PLAIN CHACHALACA Ortalis vetula (Wagler, 1830) – see hypothetical section]

[GRAY PARTRIDGE Perdix perdix (Linnaeus, 1758) – see hypothetical section]