Located along the Mediterranean Sea, Camargue, a large wetland formed by the Rhone delta, hosts a large number of plant and animal species. One of the most represented birds is a large wader with pink feathers. The Greater Flamingo. The presence of the wading bird in Camargue dates back to Roman times. According to the testimony of Pliny the Elder, the tongue of the bird was at the time a particularly sought-after dish. Today, it is its very aesthetic appearance that attracts visitors. The Greater Flamingos, whose scientific name is Phoenicopterus Roseus, belong to a family of great waders close to the Grebes family. They like lagoons and marshes and gather in large colonies that can exceed ten thousand birds during nesting. There are several subspecies but only the “Greater Flamingo” species is predominantly present in the Camargue.
Its pink color, its large size and the particular shape of its beak make the Flamingo a special wading bird. Thanks to the curved shape of its beak and the presence of fine strips of keratin between its mandibles, it can filter mud and water to only eat the small prey that interests it. Its twitter resembles that of ducks and geese. Greater Flamingos feed on crustaceans, molluscs, worms, aquatic larvae and seeds of aquatic plants. The presence of rice fields in Camargue also leads to the consumption of rice seeds by the birds during the sowing period. Watching them feed on the ponds, I have seen the head of the birds reappear in the open air covered with a mixture of water and mud giving them a strange monstrous look.
The large thin legs of the Flamingo, whose knee joint is inverted compared to that of humans, allow it to feed in deep water. They end with webbed feet so that it can move easily in the water and not sink into the mud. As for many waders, the Flamingo is accustomed to standing on one leg, whether while feeding or resting. This position does not require any energy expenditure. Due to the small size of their prey, Flamingos spend most of their time feeding. Head submerged, they trample the ground by quickly folding their long legs while turning their bodies around their beak. The movement may seem comical to the outside observer but it allows them to dig the ground (sand, mud) in order to uncover the small invertebrates that live there.
It is quite difficult to distinguish males from females in Greater Flamingos groups. Unlike many bird species, ladies possess exactly the same plumage and perform almost the same ritual movements during courtship displays. Only size makes it possible to distinguish them, females being a little smaller than males.
The extraordinary neck skeleton composition of the Greater Flamingo, composed of seventeen elongated cervicals, allows it to position its head in all directions. When resting, the bird uses the flexibility of its neck to rest its head on the back of its body, beak hidden in feathers. It takes three years, age of sexual maturity, for the bird to get its pink color. Juveniles are white and gray. The coloration of the legs, beak and feathers comes from the synthesis of carotenoid pigments present in their diet especially in