Home for smew ducks

Small smew duck listed in Red Book nesting in Belarus’ Zhitkovichi District

By Andrey Kovalev

The Beloye fishing farm is taking part in the Bio-Diversity project — jointly organised by the UNDP, by the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and by APB-BirdLife Belarus Public Association. Project representative Irina Novak tells us that no more than 30 pairs of the duck currently nest in Belarus. Since 1998, their number has been falling, as they tend to nest in tree hollows, which are few in number in our country. Moreover, the bird is being ‘pushed’ from its natural habitat by larger bullheads and female birds and offspring are often killed by pine martens while they nest.

Twenty especially prepared nesting boxes are being placed near ponds, designed to protect against competitors and predators. The boxes’ entry holes are small enough to avoid entry by bullheads and barbed wire protects against pine martens.

Organisers note that people sometimes destroy nests, mistakenly believing that the birds eat fish. With this in mind, the recent campaign aims to inform local residents of the true nature of their native environment: ‘Unique Population of Smew in Belarus’ stands are now installed at the entrance to the fishing farm ponds, with posters distributed among residents.
It’s expected that support can expand the bird’s population to other fishing farms countrywide.

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