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Know about rare diving duck ‘Mergellus Albellus’ spotted in Kashmir

Generally rare and quite local, the little Smew diving duck, known scientifically as Mergellus Albellus, was spotted

By Ground report
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Highly endangered Diving duck ‘Mergellus Albellus’ spotted in Kashmir

Generally rare and quite local, the little Smew diving duck, known scientifically as Mergellus Albellus, was spotted in the Bandipora district of North Kashmir Wular Lake of Jammu and Kashmir after 116 years. This species, which is found on both the European and American continents, is listed as highly threatened on the IUCN red list.

The coordinator of the Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WCMA) coordinator Mudasir Mehmood said that the Smew is a species of duck and is the only living member of the genus Mergellus. The last known record of this migratory bird from Kashmir is from the year 1907.

Mergellus Albellus. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The creatures are known to nest and inhabit freshwater lakes, reservoirs, floodplain forests, ice-free rivers, sheltered bays, estuaries, tidal creeks, and lagoons. One of its special characteristics is that it feeds by submerging itself in the water. They feed mainly on aquatic plants, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, fish, and invertebrates.

This duck is important as it is listed in the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds. Therefore, its conservation is essential for ornithologists (those who study birds). Although the population trend appears to be declining, the species is assessed as "least concern" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This means that it is not a focus of species conservation.

Smallest merganser duck

Smew is the smallest merganser duck. The relatively short bill is narrow with a hooked tip and jagged edges. Body length averages 40 cm. The wingspan of the males is about 60 cm. The breeding male is white with some black markings on the head and back. It has white oval wing patches in flight. A female has a chestnut forehead and crown, gray upper body, pale cheeks, and white underbody.

The Smew, which breeds in tree cavities, is a northern taiga species, and in Europe, it breeds only in Finland and Sweden. Until the 1950s, the population was in sharp decline and there was a concern for the future of the species.

The population suffered from the collection of eggs and the forced laying of eggs. Smew's numbers have increased in recent years due to the active construction of nest boxes, among other things. It is currently estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 pairs of Smew breed in Finland.

Mergellus albellus. Source: Flickr

This is almost a third of the total number of Smew hatchlings in Europe. The species is most common in eastern Lapland and is almost entirely absent from species that breed in southern Finland.

Smew breeds in various types of lakes and ponds and in marshy pools. Due to a lack of nesting sites, Smew can sometimes breed in the same nest box as Common Goldeneye.

Smews and Common Goldeneyes can even interbreed. In autumn, Smews mainly migrate to the southern parts of the Baltic Sea, although on these days some individuals winter in Finland. Like other mergansers, Smew's main nutrition

It is important to mention that this is the second such rare sighting in the Wular Lake Restored Area after "long-tailed ducks" were sighted last week.

Long-Tailed Duck sighted after 84 years

After a long gap of 84 years, a rare species of long-tailed duck 'Clangula Hyemalis' has been sighted at Wular Lake in the Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir, much to the delight of ornithologists, nature lovers and bird watchers.

The rare species of duck found on the European and American continents has been assessed as highly vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, it was sighted on the lake by officials on January 22. to 2023, Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WCMA) Coordinator Irfan Rasool said.

To the delight of ornithologists, the ecological restoration of Wular Lake has created a glimmer of hope, as record numbers of migratory birds have visited Wular Lake this year. Rare sightings have been of common pochard, red-crested pochard and long-tailed duck, as well as other common waterfowl normally seen in other wetlands, he added.


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