” YESAR” returns to nest this spring on a small island in King Pond, in the salt marshes of Aigues-Mortes. “AAR” is a male flamingo about 2 meters tall, 4.5 kg and has a wingspan of 1.85 m. On its left foot, the ring refers to the three letters that have identified it since its birth in 1977. That year, 531 chicks were given a plastic ring with an alphanumeric code before the trip. their flight, in the first major campaign conducted by the Tour du Valat, a research institute for the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands.
“28 of them have been observed again this year, all in the Camargue,” rejoices Arnaud Béchet, research director at the Tour du Valat. “AAR has been seen in the Camargue almost every year since 1982, its first breeding year,” the researcher added. Although no eggs or chicks have yet to nest this year, the AAR has been accepted as a breeder by one female. At 45 years old! A record for a wild flamingo.
Nearly 11,000 pairs
On the more than 5,000-meter-wide brackish water in the heart of the Gard Camargue, an average of 11,000 pairs come to breed each year, out of sight of ornithologists. Because waders’ reproductions are spectacular, but fragile. “The presence of terrestrial or airborne predators, such as foxes or yellow-footed gulls, the aggressive prey of eggs and chicks, or the passage of microscopic light or an aircraft unmanned can lead to the complete failure of the herd. Arnaud Béchet also recalls the impact of weather conditions: “High water levels in the pond after heavy winter rains attract greater numbers of breeding pairs, but too much rain during incubation can kill the breeding pairs. The bird hasn’t built the nest high enough. »
The flamingo, the true “mascot” of the Camargue, was an endangered species and was completely unknown before the launch of these annual appeals. “With over 60,000 individuals listed over 45 years, our database is the only one of its kind in the world relating to birds,” said Jean Jalbert, director of the Tour du. water and it’s one of the longest-running bird-watching facilities in the world,” said Jean Jalbert, director of the Tour du Valat. “In our first tests, we didn’t know much about flamingos. They are present year-round, especially in the summer, but do not have a protected habitat. »
By ‘promoting nature’, researchers and volunteers have regularly established islets and rebuilt nests, first on the grounds of the Midi salt marsh, and then on other areas. The area is co-managed by the Camargue Regional Nature Park, National Conservancy. of Nature and the Tour du Valat. These exceptional conditions make it possible to collect and compare valuable data, which is shared today with the international network for flamingo conservation and research. “They allowed us to explore their demographics: long lifespan, only one chick per year, considerable dispersal between different colonies.
Their morphological and behavioral adaptations are also very original. Couples are rehabilitated every year, and the breeding of the young happens for a short time! Indeed, before their flight, at the age of 80 days, the chicks come together to escape the aggression of other parents, then leave to frolic in the water. Their parents then fly around 150 kilometers in search of food and recognize their offspring by their vocalizations.
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The species, which was considered “threatened” in the 1960s, is now in “good conservation status”. But nothing is certain. “Climate change, the threat of erosion and rising sea levels could jeopardize these conservation efforts,” the director of the Tour du Valat reminded.
If “AAR” doesn’t have chicks this year, Arnaud Béchet and his teams have hope of seeing him again next year. “The flamingo longevity record is held by an individual from the Adelaide Zoo in Australia, who has died aged 83. Even living conditions in the wild are certainly less peaceful than in the zoo. ! »
* To fund a flamingo and contribute to the study and protection of this species and the wetlands it frequents, especially by purchasing equipment and giving it to NGOs Nature conservation, resource-depleted people in North Africa, West and Middle East: www.monflamant. com