Tourism officials in the southern French region of Camargue say it’s been a bumper year for pink flamingos, with up to 12,000 chicks born on its salt marshes.
The Aigues-Mortes salt marsh, between Marseille and Montpellier, is Europe’s first pink flamingo reserve, the migratory birds often nest on the pink-coloured salt lake.
Conservationists relying on aerial photos, taken from airplanes, estimate that 25,000 couples, or 50 thousand adult birds, settled in the area this year. About 12,000 babies were counted.
Experts say usually around 1,000 pink flamingo chicks are born there each year, but favourable conditions and artificial islands built by conservationists have seen an explosion in numbers.
Florence Saki from Salt Marsh of Aigue-Morte says the boom in births could be linked to France’s coronavirus lockdown – with fewer flights taking off from the nearby Montpellier Airport.
“It’s incredible this year, we had between 10,000 and 12,000 flamingo chicks born on the Salt Marsh of Aigue-Morte. It is estimated that around 35,000 flamingo pairs on the Salt Marsh,” she says.
“Perhaps the only good news of the crisis of COVID-19 was to have so many flamingos and chicks this year.
“The flamingos arrived here at the same time of the lockdown started and the world stopped. Even if we are not far from Montpellier Airport, there were no more plane flights, so I think this period has allowed more flamingos to come.”
Conservationists recently caught and tagged with a plastic band about 300 of the birds, before releasing them.
As autumn arrives, many will be leaving on their annual migration to Spain, Italy, Turkey or North Africa.
The plastic band allows ornithologists to spot them with binoculars or a telescope. The information is relayed to scientists in centers around the world. Each country uses a designated color for the band.
Saki says they’re now concentrating on protecting the chicks. It’s impossible to predict whether they’ll see the same numbers next year, she says.