The Endangered Scaly-sided Merganser Mergus squamatus is amongst the most threatened of sea ducks (Mergini), with an estimated population of c.4,600 individuals based on a recent population estimate on the breeding areas in Primorye, Far East Russia, China and DPR Korea. For the first time, we present published and unpublished data on the wintering distribution in China and smaller numbers in Korea. We report 156 sightings during 2000–2011, together with 11 records of wintering sites using geolocation devices, from 16 provinces in China, with greatest concentrations in Jiangxi Province (97 reports from 18 sites). Both sources of data suggest some degree of winter site fidelity to fast-flowing clear water rivers 50–350 m wide, with riffles, islands or sand banks in hilly/mountainous areas with low levels of human disturbance. Surveys located a maximum of 370–770 birds, 8–17% of the estimated total population, confirming our poor knowledge of the species’ wintering distribution. There is an urgent need to define the wintering range of this species which is widely dispersed and nowhere abundant, but is threatened everywhere by dam construction, sand and gravel extraction, industrial and domestic pollution and fishing that threaten the integrity of the winter habitat. This also raises important conservation questions about how to protect such a species that is not highly concentrated and may require catchment scale nature conservation actions to effectively safeguard its current distribution.