Last updated on November 17th, 2023 at 06:15 pm
The Greater Flamingo is the emblematic bird of the Camargue. It is the only region of France where these birds nest and one of the only places in the world where the pink flamingo has returned to lay eggs every year since 1969. On the “Etang du Fangassier” more than 10,000 flamingos come to breed. These gregarious birds live in groups in wetlands.
Scientific name : Phoenicopterus roseus
Family : Phoenicopteridae
Long. de 120 à 145 cm, Env. de 140 à 170 cm
Weight: de 2.500 à 3.500 gr
The species is unmistakable: the perched bird has an entirely light pink body, long webbed pink legs, a short, curved beak with a black tip. Primaries and secondaries are entirely black and the coverts bright pink with shades tending towards white. The legs, long and thin, are pink in the adult. Their color comes from the carotenoid pigments present in the algae and shellfish they consume. There is considerable sexual dimorphism in this species. Females are on average smaller than males. The pink flamingo sleeps upright on one or two legs, its head hidden under a wing.
Young flamingos are not very colourful. The color of flamingos comes from their food rich in beta-carotene.
Unlike most birds, because of their size, flamingos must take a few meters of momentum to take off from the water. This large bird usually flies in flocks, the elongated silhouette is typical of the Greater Flamingo with elongated neck and legs. Despite its mass, the flight remains direct and energetic.
This large web-footed bird likes open, shallow salty or brackish stretches of water, marshes and ponds, which explains its strong presence in the Camargue. The Greater Flamingo is a coastal bird associated with vast areas of shallow brackish water, endowed with islets, and rich in nutrients. Its privileged habitat is made up of coastal lagoons and ponds, especially in the deltas of large rivers such as the Rhône in the Camargue.
He catches a species of shrimp called Artemia salina. The latter is at the origin of the pink color of the flamingo but also of the coloring of the saltworks at a certain time of the year. Artemia salina contains keto-carotenoid pigments. Their beak, which has a comb system, allows them to filter the water to retain the nutrients (Artemia shrimp). Our unique French Phoenicopteridae also consumes other invertebrates and aquatic plants.
The Greater flamingo nests in large colonies that can reach several thousand pairs. They are located on muddy islets. Both adults build a raised earthen cup where the female will lay the single annual egg. Both mates incubate for 28-31 days.
Semi-nidifuge young leave the nest after 10 days. They are gathered in a “nursery” under the supervision of adults. The parents feed them with a nourishing liquid which they pour into the beaks of the offspring. The latter take their first flight after 10 to 11 weeks.
Camargue is the only nesting region for Flamingos in France, they nest in the Fangassier pond.
Flamingos are very numerous in summer, the vast majority of them migrating to Africa in winter. In the Camargue, a large number are present all year round.
The Greater flamingo benefits from total protection on French territory since the ministerial decree of April 17, 1981 relating to birds protected throughout the territory.
It is listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive of the European Union. It is therefore prohibited to destroy, mutilate, capture or remove it, to intentionally disturb or naturalize it, as well as to destroy or remove eggs and nests and to destroy, alter or degrade their environment.
The cries of the Greater flamingo are curiously reminiscent of the noisy sound emissions of geese and other barnacles; the greater flamingo quacks.
You can see the article from my site “Birds of Camargue” for more information on the Camargue and the Birds.