A Great Place to See Flocks of Flamingos in Provence
Calling all nature and bird lovers! During your trip to Provence, you won’t want to miss the family-friendly Parc Ornithologique de Pont-de-Gau. This birding hot spot in the Camargue is near Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where you will see pink flamingos and many other birds.
See Flamingos and More
This is far from a contained bird zoo. Instead, it’s a sprawling, open-air nature park. The fabulous flamant rose (Greater Flamingo) flocks here all year in majestic numbers, along with tons of other stunning species—various herons and egrets, storks, stilts, avocets, and ibis. Birds of prey, such as the Peregrine Falcon, are occasionally fly-bys. You’ll be amazed at the number of birds and the diversity of species winging in and out, creating an exhilarating atmosphere.
On our latest foray to the park in July, my husband and I observed nearly 40 species in about two hours, including simply watching the birds do what they do. For flamingos, this means that often, they might be taking a snooze, standing motionless on one leg. But most likely, you’ll see large numbers snacking, prancing, or preening. One of my favourite scenes is observing flamingos race across the water’s surface, wings flapping ferociously before taking flight. And then following them as they soar, their mighty coral and black wings outstretched. It’s such a marvellous and unexpected sight and can catch you off-guard. So I wasn’t surprised to see a mother pointing to the sky and shouting excitedly to her child, “Look, they’re FLY-ing!”
How intimate it feels sets this nature space apart from other natural zones. In the southern section alone, nearly three (3) kilometres of wide, smooth paths wind around huge ponds, allowing spectators to get quite close to the birds. Consequently, the experience makes an impressive impact, and you don’t need massive photographic equipment to capture the special moments. And the flat circuit means it’s welcoming to baby buggies and those with limited mobility.
Venue for Winged Wonders
The park began in 1949 when Camargue resident and nature lover André Lamouroux opened a small zoo and garden. Twenty-five years later, his son René expanded the park, added “discovery” trails, and planted vegetation to attract various bird species, transforming the park’s mission from primarily avian observation to nature appreciation and preservation.
From just a few aviaries at its inception, the venue now covers 60 hectares (148 acres) and boasts beyond seven (7) kilometres (4.2 miles) of trails, where two hundred bird species may be seen. Many birds stay all year; some are “snowbirds,” just residing for the winter, while others touch down for some R&R while migrating.
But regardless of the season you visit, you’re guaranteed to encounter a wondrous range of winged wonders. Be prepared to be enthralled.
Parc ornithologique du Pont de Gau
13460 Stes Maries de la mer
Telephone: +33 (0)4 90 97 82 62
Here is the website for more information about tariffs, guided tours, avian research, the Care Center, and the Association of Friends.
April 1st to September 30th – 9 am to 6 pm
October 1st to March 31st – 10 am to 5 pm
The actual visitation time depends on the trails chosen, but allow an hour to an hour and a half or more.
Entry tickets are all-day passes
Picnics are allowed
To protect the wildlife, dogs are not permitted.
The 2.8 kilometres of trails are accessible to those with reduced mobility and anyone pushing a stroller.
Natural outdoor WCs (water closets) are located near the entry.
Also, there is an outdoor art exhibition area, a buvette (refreshment stand), picnic tables, viewing stations, and, scattered throughout the park, many playful “Have you seen this bird” flip notebooks, visiting even more fun for youngsters and adults alike. You see the bird on the front and flip the cover to read its name and details—in English and French.
Don’t forget to bring mosquito repellent, sunscreen and drinking water, as the season may require.
For more birding in the area, check out this excellent guide: Where to Watch Birds in France, by Jean-Yves Barnagaud, Nadal Issa and Sébastien Dalloyau.
Gayle Smith Padgett is the author of The Birdwatcher’s Wife: A Quest across France for Birds and La Belle Vie and Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie. She and her husband have lived in Provence since 2011.