The Camargue region in southern France is one of Europe’s largest river deltas, covering approximately 360 square kilometres between the Rhone River and the Mediterranean Sea. Almost one third of the region is made up of lakes or marshlands, an ideal habitat for more than 400 species of birds, including the greater flamingo.
The Phoenicopterus Roseus, commonly known as the Greater Flamingo, have been visiting the Camargue during the winter months since around the 1970s, specifically used as a breeding ground. Although many non-breeding flamingos can be seen all year round, anywhere up to 10,000 flamingos gather during the mating season returning each year to a small area of the park’s shallow expanses of water.
Flamingos become particularly vocal during mating season, as they seek out a partner to mate with. As well as their distinct calls, the birds join together in a spectacular courtship dance, necks in the air, turning their heads from left to right and occasionally opening the full span of their wings to reveal a dramatic flash of red.
I recently visited the Camargue in the hope of recording the mating calls. I arrived early one Saturday morning at Pont de Gau Ornithological Park, a protected area of the Camargue home to both resident and migrating Flamingos. Conditions were perfect: virtually no wind, beautiful clear skies and almost no visitors. As I headed out along through the marshland I was immediately struck by the shear number of Flamingos and just how vocal they all were. As I circumnavigated the lake, following a small path around the water’s edge, I captured a number of recordings from different perspectives.
It was such an amazing experience to see these birds in the wild, and being able to do so in such an accessible place. Being able to witness the fascinating mating rituals at such close proximity to the birds is also something I will never forget. One of France’s natural wonders, the Camargue is under threat from rising sea levels and may one day no longer be a suitable breeding ground for the Greater Flamingo. All the more reason to have been to see, and listen to, this incredible species of bird.