The Scaly-sided Merganser Mergus squamatus is a globally ‘Endangered’ species breeding in north-east Asia. Limited by information on the geographic distribution of suitable habitat, the conservation management programme has not been comprehensive or spatially explicit for the breeding population. This study combines potentially important environmental variables with extensive data on species occurrence to create the first species distribution model for the breeding Scaly-sided Merganser, followed by a GAP analysis to highlight the unprotected areas containing suitable habitat. The predictive map showing the most suitable breeding habitat for the Scaly-sided Merganser covered broad-leaved deciduous forest distributed in six provincial regions in south-east Russia, north-east China, and North Korea. The conservation GAP, i.e. 90% (38,813 km2) of highly suitable habitat, is mainly concentrated in the Sikhote-Alin and Changbai mountain ranges. This study suggests that prioritizing conservation of unprotected broad-leaved deciduous riverine forests within the above two mountainous regions should be included in international conservation planning, and the remaining suitable patches need to be preserved to allow range expansion in future. This predictive map improves the expert global assessment of breeding Scaly-sided Merganser distribution and provides a basic reference for establishing conservation areas or implementing conservation actions for the breeding Scaly-sided Merganser in north-east Asia.