Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Smew (Mergellus albellus)

Barry Kent MacKay bird painting
(Artwork - 082)
(Mergellus albellus)

The Smew is a smallish diving duck native to the northern latitudes of the eastern hemisphere, breeding in the forested regions of northern Eurasia, and mostly wintering in coastal marine water, but also in the Balkans and the great inland seas of central Asia. They occur, regularly, in the non-breeding season in Alaskan waters and along the west coast of North America, and sometimes in the east, including where I live, in the lower Great Lakes region.

I saw them in the wild for the first time in Japan, where they are a migrant. They are quite unmistakable the males in breeding plumage having that broad black mask and black and white plumage, with fine “vermiculations” (very fine dark lines) on the flanks, that look grey at any distance at all.While there are several black and white diving ducks none is close, in appearance, to the male Smew. The female is also distinct, with a reddish-brown cap sharply edged where it meets the bright white of the chin and throat. Her body is mostly grey, the wings with a black and white pattern similar to those of the males. In “eclipse” plumage the male had brown feathers about the head and a more motley appearance, but is still distinctive.

This is the only member of the genus, Mergellus, and as the beak is the same shape and general proportions of that of a Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cuculattus) and similar to other mergansers, it has been traditionally treated as a merganser (or “sawbill”) although some suggest the Smew is more closely related to the goldeneyes and Bufflehead genus: Bucephala. Maybe, but ecologically I have always thought that the Smews I have seen in Eurasia most remind me of our own Hooded Merganser, the only merganser species that is restricted to the northern western hemisphere. (There is also a South American merganser. Also an extinct species from Aukland Islands, New Zealand (Mergus australis), a lovely and endangered Asian species, Mergus squamatus, and two quite common species found across the entire northern hemisphere. All are mostly consumers of fish and other aquatic life found underwater.

Most of the diving ducks run along the water to get airborne, so I was surprised when I saw these birds take off with a leap, like dabbling ducks, which is apparently normal for them.

They nest in holes in trees. They are quite migratory and although they sometimes segregate into winter flocks according to sex, I have shown a pair in April.

Really the painting was an exercise, taking up the challenge of painting black and white birds that are mostly backlit on brightly blue shallow sea water with white rock or sand bottom, using oil paints on a stretched linen canvas with a coating of gesso, and then a monotone acrylic.

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Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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