Birds of Camargue

The Camargue is unquestionably the paradise of birds; this region counts more than 350 species of resident birds or migratory. This one is a place of wintering for numerous species (ducks mallards, teals, souchets, etc.), it is a zone of international importance for the migration.


«Les flamants aux ailes de feu venaient de la clarté mourante, saluer, le long des étangs, les dernières lueurs.»

The Camargue, "bird paradise" between earth and water :

The Camargue is a part since 1970, the 46 regional parks that rely France. This park has an area of ​​84,800 hectares of land, and 34,300 on a sea, extends essentially over the municipalities of Arles and Saints Marie de la Mer, this is the vastest wet zone of France. These wetlands present an exceptional biodiversity. The Camargue is one of the last natural habitat of the Mediterranean coast.

For the ornithologists, as for the photographers, the Camargue is a place privileged for observations of birds all year round.

The birds of Camargue can be classified in four major categories:

  • the nicheurs summer vacationers, wintering in Africa, and come to reproduce in the Camargue in spring. Can be observed in the Camargue from the month of Mars.
  • the migrants, which we meet essentially in spring and in autumn, they make a stop in the Camargue during their migration.
  • the wintering birds, they come from Europe and North centrale, seek a milder climate. We can to observe them from the month of November.
  • the sedentary, whom we can observe in Camargue throughout the year.

Throughout the year, the Camargue welcomes on its immense expanses of marshes, lagoons and reedbeds, thousands of resident birds and migratory birds: ducks, herons, waders.

Protection sites:

  • the Camargue National Reserve, an area of ​​just over 18,000 hectares, it is managed by the SNPN.
  • departmental Reserve Imperial and Malagroy, it covers about 2770 hectares.
  • the biological Station Tower Valat (very known as a center of bird banding) is a research center for the preservation of Mediterranean wetlands.
  • the ornithological parc of Pont de Gau.
  • the Camargue Regional Park created in 1972 and covers an area of ​​84,800 hectares.

The birds that I most frequently observed in the Camargue :

The flamingo is the emblematic bird of the Camargue. This is the only region of France where these birds nest and one of the only places in the world where the flamingo lay back every year since 1969. On "Pond Fangassier " more than 10,000 Flemish come to reproduce. These gregarious birds live in group in the wet zones. This large web-footed bird, prefers the large expanses of shallow salt water or brackish marshes and ponds, what explains its strong presence in the Camargue. These areas allow them to find their food, essentially constituted by shellfishes and seaweeds. Their beak which contains a system of comb, allows them to filter the water to retain the nourishing elements (shrimp artémia). The color of flamingos comes from their food rich in beta carotene. The young flamingos, are lightly colored.

The little Egret is the most common egrets. It is distinguished by its white plumage, black beak very long, black legs with yellow fingers. This Egret is smaller than the Great Egret has two very long and thin white ornamental feathers behind the cap, extending from the nape of the neck in half, and play an important role during courtship. It nests in colonies with other species of herons. The Little Egret is fond of reedbeds, wet shrublands or trees near water. The little egret feeds hunting in areas of shallow water, small fish, frogs, worms, crustaceans, molluscs, and other insects. The egret is a powerful flight, it flies with slow wing beats, neck retracted into the shoulders. The egret is a partial migratory, some wintering colonies in Africa or the South of France, Camargue particles, or they just see all year. The little egret is rather quiet outside the colony, but you can hear a "kgarrk" hoarse or a long "aaahk" when it flies away.

The Pied Avocet is easily recognizable with its black beak end curved upwards, white plumage dotted with black spots, the blue-gray legs. The Avocet has not usurped the epithet of elegant. It affectionnne wetlands, shallow waters, and places bare salt marshes, lagoons, marshes, mudflats, but also large sheltered bays particularly in winter. The Camargue has settlements favorable to it.
It nests often near water, so that the keys are sometimes at risk from flooding. Nesting occurs from April and has a litter a year. Incubation of eggs lasts 24 to 26 days.
The species is migratory in the north and east, and most spend the winter in the Mediterranean countries, Africa and South Asia. More than 2,500 pairs breed in France and about 15,000 wintering mainly between the Morbihan and Charente-Maritime. The Camargue wintering Avocets born in Spain and North Africa.
It feeds on small invertebrates, thanks to research that suited its beak slightly open, agitated by a lateral movement in the water. This is the only species of Avocet living in Europe. The avocet has a direct flight and fast beats its wings rapidly, theft legs beyond the tail, the neck is slightly extended.

The Grey Heron is the best known of our herons, it often nests in colonies in trees near water. (heronry), the nest consists of twigs in a tree. It is a formidable hunter lying in wait, which remains stationary at the water's edge and catch anything that comes close at its beak (small rodents, frogs, fish ... and above). He deploys his neck and suddenly gives a mighty beak on its prey. In the Camargue, it is found near ponds and swamps, he likes shallow water bodies. This bird is recognizable in its yellow beak (yellow-orange in breeding season), and ash-gray plumage (hence its name) and his white head and black striped neck greyish white and black. It flies neck folded slow beating of wings.

The Western Cattle Egrets its name because it is readily holds near the cattle, which he takes advantage of the presence of insects feeding frightened. It is recognized by its rather stocky figure, with its beak rather short and the net bulging with feathers in it. During the nesting period, the white plumage of the adult is enhanced by a tan-orange color support at the crown, breast and mantle. Earlier this season, the beak, lores and iris change from yellow to red, the legs of dark greenish to dull red to yellow.
It is a wading bird often living near freshwater but unlike other herons, the Cattle Egret is not tied exclusively to the aquatic environment. He also frequents dry meadows and cultures, and it is found frequently among the Camargue bulls.
It nests in small trees in colonies that can gather thousands of Western Cattle Egrets, each nest is protected by one parent, while the other searches for food.

The Black-headed Gull is a bird of the family Laridae, a family grouping the Gulls. The Black-headed Gull is white with pearl gray wings except black tip. The brown-black cap they wear in the spring disappears in summer and head becomes white. The legs are orange or orange-red. The beak is red-yellow.
Black-headed Gull frequents lakes and ponds provided that there is no vegetation, wetlands and coastal ponds. It is also found in cities and cultivated areas in search of food in winter. The way we often follow the tractors plowing.
Black-headed Gull breeds near shallow calm waters, whether fresh, brackish or salt, usually on the edges of ponds, lakes and rivers slow in the flood zones, near the lagoons, deltas, estuaries. Nesting occurs from April to July, females lay one clutch per year, three eggs.

The Common Shelduck is a cave species, which nests preferably in the burrows of rabbits. The male's head is greenish black, with a red beak wattle of the same color, a reddish breast band from which a ventral stripe dark wings with white scapulars and primaries marked with black and green mirror rest of the body white. The female is duller and has no wattles on the beak, often with black markings. Adults of both sexes have pink legs. In France, it is found in Picardy, Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine, but also in the Camargue.
Shelduck feed on the surface while walking in the mud and swaying his beak sideways. It also feeds on water using different techniques: up in the pools and in shallow water, swimming or tail swinging in the air in deep water.
The female lays two week for eight to ten eggs. It provides only for about 30 days incubation. Just after hatching, the ducklings are led to water by their parents, and begin immediately to dive for food.

Several galleries of the site are dedicated to birds of the Camargue, a large part of these photos were realized in the réserve ornithologique of Pont de Gau, near Saintes Maries de la Mer. This reserve is a place privileged to observe various species of birds throughout the year.


The main points of observations of birds in Camargue:

  • The bird park of Pont de Gau, to the Saintes Marie de la Mer.
  • The Domain of la Palissage, near the mouth of the Grand Rhône, to Salin de Giraud. It is a protected natural area owned by the Conservatory coast.
  • The swamp of Viguerat, Mas Thibert at 30 mn of Arles, on a protected site in 1200 hectares of coastline belonging to the Conservatory coast.
  • The Capelière, near the Pond Vaccarès area of thirty hectares, managed by SNPN.
  • The Scamandre, located in Camargue Gard. Property of approximately 140 ha, respectively belonging to the municipality of Vauvert and the General Council of the Gard.