Smews nest mainly in the boreal taiga across northern Eurasia from northern Fenno-Scandia east to Kamchatca. In Europe the breeding range slowly contracted northwards during the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly because of habitat loss. In winter, they move mostly to the western Baltic, the Netherlands, the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean.
    Great Britain is on the western fringe of their winter range, with small numbers found every winter in lowland regions of England, Scotland and Wales. The numbers have been in decline since the 1950s, probably because generally warmer winters have meant that winter migrants have not been travelling as far, though there have been temporary surges during cold spells.
    In Wiltshire Smews were rare winter visitors before the late 1970s – there had been only 13 records prior to 1976 – but thereafter they started to appear more regularly, though there were still seven winters between 1977 and 1995 when none were recorded. Since then there have been records every winter with record totals of 19 individuals in three winters. The majority have been at the Cotswold Water Park, though they have also been recorded at a number of other sites, in particular Coate Water and Corsham Lake.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.