Monitoring herons in the Camargue


This aim of this project is to monitor the long-term trend of nesting heron populations in the Camargue and along the French Mediterranean coast, to better understand variations in the responses of these species to climate changes, and to alert others about conservation problems so as to propose more favourable management methods.

Actions and methodology

These long-term monitoring operations were started by Heinz Hafner in 1967, and concern the following species: Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron, and Black-Crowned Night Heron.

The species that breed in reed beds (Grey Heron, Purple Heron, and Great Egret) are monitored annually throughout the French Mediterranean coastal area. The counts are conducted through aerial surveys during the nesting season. For the other species, the number of breeding individuals is counted on the ground (annually in protected areas, and every two years for the entire Camargue).



Among other things, the monitoring enabled us to show that the number of Squacco Herons reached a maximum of 805 pairs in the Camargue in 2010, whereas up until 2000 there had only been about one hundred pairs on average.


© Cyril Girard


Technical partners


  • Barbraud, C., Nichols, J.D., Hines, J.E. & Hafner, H. (2003) Estimating rates of local extinction and colonization in colonial species and extension to the metapopulation and community levels. Oikos 101, 113–126.
  • Barbraud, C., Lepley, M., Mathevet, R. & Mauchamp, A. (2002) Reedbed selection and colony size of breeding Purple Herons Ardea purpurea in southern France. Ibis 144, 227–235.
  • Barbraud, C. & Mathevet, R. (2000) Is Commercial Reed Harvesting Compatible With Breeding Purple Herons Ardea Purpurea in the Camargue, Southern France. Environmental Conservation 27, 334–340.
  • Gauthier-Clerc M., Kayser Y., Petit J. 2006. Une colonie exceptionnelle de hérons arboricoles en Camargue gardoise. Ornithos 13:320–322.
  • Kushlan J.A & Hafner H. 2000. Heron Conservation. Academic Press. San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Boston, London, Sydney, Tokyo.