The smallest of the sawbills - barely bigger than a Teal - this is a bird of the Arctic woodland of the Old World. It needs a hole in a big tree to nest in and often these are ones made by a Black Woodpecker.
The male is absolutely unmistakable with mostly white plumage but a black patch joining eye with bas of bill, a jaunty slash of black from behind the eye to the nape and a couple of narrow black lines on the lower breast and belly. Young drakes and females have red heads, white lower faces and upper necks, pale grey under parts and darker above.
These are fish eaters and they usually use freshwater areas and not the sea - at least not open areas. Only a few come across to Britain and Western Europe but large numbers winter in the Caspian and the Sea of Azov.
Lovely little duck - one of the regulars to London reservoirs in winter.
Length 410 mm Closed wing 190 mm Weight 700 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead