A visit to the Parc Ornithonologique in Camargue ruffles some feathers.
The flamingos, or flamant rose, are the most captivating birds in the Parc Ornithonologique, location at Pont du Gau, in the heart of la Camargue. But a visit to the parc, just a few minutes north of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer (and the Mediterranean coast), has a few surprises.
Herons, storks, and a variety of birds, too many to mention, roam, swim, nest, fish, and do pretty much as they please, in this 60-hectare (about 150 acres) bird sanctuary.
The setting is natural, with the exception of a few very large cages to hold some special birds. The rest live in the parc of their own accord. Humans walk the natural paths along reeds and salt marshes where these birds live in their natural environments and come and go as they please. Many, it seems, are pleased to make their homes in the parc.
Camargue, even outside of the parc, is a natural resting place for hundreds of species of birds migrating north and south. They seem to find something very appealing in this wet, marshy area along the north-western shore of the Mediterranean. In spring, the area is populated with species heading north, from Africa, to spend a cooler summer. Summer is breeding season, so from April through mid-summer nests and babies abound. Autumn marks the return of the species that head back south for winter.
While the tourists disappear in winter, la Camargue is still teeming with feathered residents. More than 100,000 ducks in many varieties make their winter homes in the area. While the largest number of flamingos can be seen in summer, several thousand flamingos live in la Camargue in winter. It is during this season that they show their most brilliant pink plumage.
The Parc Ornithonologique also hosts a rescue and rehabilitation center for injured birds. Run by volunteers, the center cares for approximately 365 injured birds a year.
Hours vary according to the season, so check the website. Prices range from 3.50 € to 9.50 € and may include an expert guide.