Largest wetland in France with 150,000 hectares, the Rhône delta is an exceptional natural environment. It is in particular a territory where salt water and fresh water are balanced, meadows and rice fields, but also the presence of man, who remains discreet there, and that of a rich and numerous wild fauna. . Whether you are a lover of wildlife photography, a volunteer but passionate ornithologist, or simply a lover of long hikes in contact with nature, the Camargue will satisfy you. Also, to prepare for your excursion, here is the list of the 7 most emblematic animals that you may have the chance to observe.
Undoubtedly, the pink flamingo is the great “star” wader of the Camargue. It is known to feed on small crustaceans and microscopic algae containing carotene, coloring pond water pink, especially in spring, but also flamingo plumage. It is thanks to its beak that it filters the water, in a logic very similar to that of the whale with its baleen.
Without being strictly speaking a migrant, the flamingo moves regularly from one site to another. Fortunately, the Camargue stopover is so important for them that you can observe them there all year round. The two islets of the pond of Fangassier, to the east of the delta, are also their only nesting place in Europe. The colony reaches its peak in summer with 30,000 to 34,000 individuals.
The Camargue bull
The Camargue bull, also called simply “the Camargue” is a breed of bovine characterized by its shiny black color and its lyre-shaped horns. It is much smaller than most other breeds of cows bred in France: 1.30 to 1.40 m high at the withers and 300 to 400 kg for males, 1.20 m and less than 300 kg for females. . Because we must not be mistaken about the local vocabulary: “the bull” also designates the cow!
The Camargue is the last wild cattle breed from Europe. There are around a hundred herds (in Provence, this is the name given to the herds evolving in semi-freedom, under the discreet supervision of herdsmen on horseback, a traditional practice. You can easily observe them because they are nowadays. hui 10,000 to 12,000 cattle which are distributed over the whole of the Camargue territory. traditional shows, Camargue race and bullfighting.
The Camargue horse
Like the bull, the horse can be called “the Camargue”. It is a stocky and rustic saddle horse. It is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, and its presence in the region has been documented since Antiquity. Her White dress is characteristic and became famous with Horsehair-White, mythical film from the 1950s, featuring a Camargue horse with an immaculate coat. It is little known that it changes with age: the foal is first born with very dark hair which gradually becomes lighter. It is from 6-7 years old that the coat takes on its uniform white color.
The herds of “semi-wild” Camargue horses are easy to observe because they live all year round in freedom, often mixed with cattle, in meadows without fences. The breeders do not interfere in the breeding process. They are content to take the individuals they will need for the work of the guardians or for recreational riding.
The cattle egret
An inseparable companion of the Camargue horse and bull, the cattle egret is a small white wading bird. It feeds on insects that harass livestock. Many are small vertebrates dislodged from their burrows by the trampling of herds. It is often confused with the little egret, which is very similar in size and color. But if you are careful, you will observe that the heron’s beak is thinner and less yellow than that of the egret. The fate of this bird is closely linked to that of wetlands.
You will easily see it in the trees or shrubs where it nests. You can easily capture the image of one of these birds, comfortably installed on the back or the rump of a horse or a bovine, making a real feast of flies and mosquitoes. It is from this habit that it takes its name, although it does not perform the duties of the guardian at all. During the short period of pair formation for reproduction, the bare areas (beak, lores – spaces between the anterior part of the eye and the nostrils -, as well as the legs) become bright red.
The pond turtle
The pond turtle, or European pond turtle, is a freshwater turtle that can measure up to 20 cm. Its shell is oval, dark green or black in color. The rest of the body is black with yellow speckles. Until the 19th century, this turtle was present in many parts of Europe but its habitat has a lot regressed which makes it today an endangered species.
You will find it mainly in the Camargue gardoise (to the west of the delta). It buries itself in the mud to winter: you will not have a chance to see it until the height of summer, when it comes out of the water to warm itself in the sun. Be discreet because at the slightest noise, it dives with unsuspected speed.
Unlike the bulls, horses and turtles that have inhabited the Camargue since time immemorial, the nutria only arrived in the region in the 1950s, like the cattle egret. With its 5 to 7 kg, it is smaller than its very distant cousin the European beaver. It represents a real threatens for fragile ecological balances because it is an invasive species due to its ability to reproduce very quickly and to adapt to new environments. Actions to fight against its proliferation must be put in place to hope to preserve the food of other species and limit its negative impact on dikes and hydraulic installations.
Despite all these faults, the nutria is an animal that we generally enjoy observing. It is not shy and is happy to be caught swimming or looking for food with its powerful and agile paws. However, you must be careful not to approach too close otherwise it will quickly dive to regain its burrow, the entrance to which is below the surface of the water.
The Camargue, a unique site in the world
The ecological interest of the Camargue is such that it was recognized very early on, with its classification as a “landscape monument” from the first half of the 20th century. Since the creation of the Camargue Regional Natural Park and the recognition of this territory as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in the 1970s – in particular thanks to the investment of the Conservatoire du Littoral – responsible tourism development encourages the observation of animals while respecting their natural habitat. So do not hesitate to walk in these exceptional spaces!