Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Wild Flamingos of the Camargue

Flamingos marching.
 The second largest group of Flamingos in the world live in the Camargue.  The largest is in Africa.  To see Flamingos in the wild is breathtaking.  I've only seen them in zoos before this, and they were pretty amazing there, but to see thousands of them quietly eating or is it slurping, thrilling.  We went to the Parc Ornithologic de Pont du Grau.  It is a sanctuary for all birds who live in the Camargue, some of whom have been injured so are protected in enclosures.  The majority just live in the area.  .
When one wants to get ahead, simply flap your wings until you are on top of the water and then walk to the place you wish to be.  Flamingos are amazing!

Walking on water.
 When we first arrived at the parc, there were several other birds on an island across from where we stopped.  Bill took pictures, we figured out what they were, when there was an odd noise off the right.  Swishing of water combined with an odd gutteral sound.  When we turned to look, there was a flock of Flamingos marching toward us!  One was in the lead, the rest followed; like you would see a flock of geese flying, only these birds were literally marching!
Flamingos dip there beaks down into the muck, then filter out the little critters they eat.
I don't know if flamingos are protected from hunting, if not they are a very large bird that would provide a good deal of meat. However, they eat muck, so they might not be very flavorful. The only time we tried mud hens, a duck, they were inedible.  Bill read in a book this evening that their only predator was zoo keepers.  We laughed.
Their beaks look like they have painted on lipstick.

Standing on one foot, with the other tucked up under.
 They eat by putting their bill into the muck and filtering out the algae they eat.  When they come up for air, their heads are covered in the muck.  Disgusting!  But, the muck seems to fall away from them.  None of the birds was dirty looking.
If we get a bit closer together, we can make a heart!

A Flamingo buffet line.  Yumm, blue/green algae. 
When we bought our tickets, I asked the man at the counter if there really were Flamingos.  He replied, with a smile,  "Oh yes, they will be here today, just for you!"  

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