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Long-tailed duck

Excerpt from my contribution to Into the Red (British Trust for Ornithology, 2022), pp. 28–29.

Now you see them, now you don’t: up for air, and they’re back down again, feathers pressed tight against dense bodies before each plunge into brisk northern seas. Feet large, wings compact, like the other diving ducks; yet their constant disappearing act while foraging earns them the record amongst their peers for most time spent under the surface, a one-to-four ratio of breath to brine. What sleight of wing! For theirs are wings that can most unusually propel them through water and dare them down, deep and deeper, to an astonishing fifty-five metres beneath the waves …

Peter Partington, Long-tailed Ducks Displaying, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

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