Why SA’s plover lovers are smiling

News article |

Hooded plovers are one of Australia’s top 20 threatened birds and there is estimated to be fewer than 800 birds in South Australia. But there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic as we move into the 2022-23 ‘hoodies’ nesting season.

Why SA’s plover lovers are smiling
Hooded plover adult and chick. Image: Martin Stokes

Results from the last nesting season show a positive trend in several regions compared to previous years in the number of fledged chicks – those ready to fly – per pair of hooded plovers.

Local landscape boards and Birdlife Australia are among those caring for these birds and implementing interventions to help increase their numbers across South Australia

With seven of South Australia’s nine landscape boards situated in regions with coastline featuring sandy beaches where hoodies can nest, they are often taking the lead to support the people and projects focused on looking after this vulnerable species.

Breeding season kicks off on SA beaches

Australia’s most threatened beach-nesting bird has kicked off its 2022-23 breeding season with eggs spotted as far west as Ceduna down to Middleton and Victor Harbor on the Fleurieu Peninsula – and there are now chicks on Yorke and Eyre peninsulas.

Hooded plover pairs select a suitable site at a beach each breeding season – usually from early August to late March – and will have multiple nesting attempts throughout the season.

Across just the Fleurieu and metro Adelaide beaches, more than 15 nesting attempts were recorded by mid-September by the Friends of the Hooded Plover volunteers.

Eggs are laid in a nest that is little more than a scrape on the sand, making them hard for humans to see when visiting beaches and leaving them open to predators.

Once hatched, the chicks need to get to the water’s edge to feed which further increases their vulnerability.

Many eggs do not make it to hatching and many chicks don’t reach the fledgling stage.

Graduating to flying is a significant milestone for the chicks of these threatened beach-nesting birds. It means they have survived 28 days in eggs on the sand and 5 weeks foraging for food on the beach where they can fall prey to off-leash dogs, vehicles, unwitting beachgoers and predators like foxes, roaming cats, silver gulls and ravens.

Why SA’s plover lovers are smiling
Hooded plover eggs are camouflaged well, making them hard for predators – but also beachgoers – to see. Image: Kerri Bartley

Encouraging numbers

Last breeding season, 18 chicks that hatched along the Adelaide and Fleurieu coastline made it to fledging. The Eyre Peninsula and Yorke Peninsula both saw a record number of fledglings in the 2021-22 breeding season with 23 Eyre Peninsula chicks reaching fledgling age and an amazing 43 on Yorke Peninsula.

To understand why hoodies win hearts, get to know the threatened bird and its adorable babies surviving on Adelaide’s coast.

Why SA’s plover lovers are smiling
A hooded plover parent snuggling (aka brooding) its chicks. Image: Matt Endacott

Help keep hoodies safe on local beaches

Each year landscape boards urge visitors to share the beaches and be mindful of nesting hooded plovers during the warmer months.

As beachgoers flock to the sand each spring and summer, they are reminded to keep an eye out for the local hoodie population.

The birds are at great risk of being trampled as they lay their eggs in the sand and lead their tiny chicks down to the water’s edge to feed.

What you can do

If you are visiting South Australia’s beaches during the warmer months, you can help the hoodies by:

  • driving your car at the low tide mark and close to the water’s edge
  • paying attention to hooded plover awareness signs at beach entrances
  • keeping your dog on a leash at all times and walk at the water’s edge
  • keeping well away from areas temporarily fenced to help protect nests and chicks
  • moving away quietly if you spot hooded plovers on the beach
  • keeping off the sand dunes.

You can also help by spreading the word – share this list with your friends and family.

Hooded plovers are very shy birds who will try to lead predators away from their nests. They are not like the common spur-winged plovers who will noisily swoop at predators. Please keep well away from hoodies if you happen to see them or come across one of their hard-to-spot nests. They have a very important job controlling the temperature of their eggs or chicks – which they can’t do if they are leading predators away.

Hooded plovers are a small bird (smaller than a seagull), identified by their distinctive black hood, red circle around the eye and orange stalk-like legs.

Why SA’s plover lovers are smiling
This leashed pup is following the rules. Image: Kerri Bartley

What interventions help hoodies?

There are projects across the state (and Australia) that focus on helping threatened hooded plovers thrive and survive. These projects involved monitoring of nesting beaches – often by landscape officers and BirdLife Australia trained volunteers – with interventions being put in place where possible.

Interventions can include predator control, signage to alert beach-users of the birds’ presence and fencing nesting sites.

Last nesting season, a very busy lower Eyre Peninsula beach had a nesting site fenced with chicks managing to reach fledgling age despite being vulnerable during the busy festive season. Down on the Fleurieu, dune restoration is helping to create a more stable and sheltered habitat for many plants and animals, including hooded plovers.


Why SA’s plover lovers are smiling
Hooded plover nesting, Canunda National Park, Limestone Coast. Image: Steve Bourne

Region-by-region

You can stay up to date with hooded plover projects and find out how to get involved in looking after hoodies by contacting your local landscape board. Find your local landscape board here.

Here’s a quick rundown:

Eyre Peninsula

Many nests, eggs and even the first chicks have been spotted on Eyre Peninsula beaches so far this breeding season. Landscape officers and BirdLife trained volunteers are monitoring more than 20 beaches as part of the Protecting the Hooded Plover and Eyre Peninsula’s Saltmarsh Threat Abatement and Recovery projects. These projects are supported by the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board, the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and BirdLife Australia through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

See the STAR news page for more details and follow the EP Landscape Board on Facebook or Twitter to keep up to date with the EP hooded plover news.

Fleurieu and metro Adelaide

The Hooded Plover project is jointly coordinated by Green Adelaide and BirdLife Australia, with support from local councils, and is funded by Green Adelaide and the Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board, through funding from the Australian Government.

Read more about how Australia’s most threatened beach-nesting bird is on the road to recovery.

In more good news for hoodies, dune systems from Myponga Beach to Goolwa are having introduced weedy grasses removed, to be revegetated with the local spinifex vegetation. These deep-rooted native running grasses capture sand and stabilise dunes, creating a natural buffer for storm surges and providing critical habitat for plants and animals, including hooded plovers.

This project is funded by South Australia’s Landscape Priorities Fund, along with other priority landscape-scale projects across the state.

A group of lucky kids will be learning about hooded plovers and other beach nesting birds that make their homes on the Fleurieu ocean beaches at this sold-out event held in Goolwa this October as part of this year’s Nature Festival. While disappointing for wannabe attendees, it’s good news for hoodies with more young people and families in the know and looking out for them on South Australia’s beaches.

The event is supported by Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu, Birdlife Australia, Green Adelaide and Alexandrina Council and delivered as part of the Back from the Brink project funded by the Australian Government.

Limestone Coast

Each year the Limestone Coast Landscape Board urges visitors to be mindful of the nesting hooded plovers along the Coorong and Limestone Coast beaches during the warmer months.

As beachgoers flock to the sand each spring and summer, they are reminded to keep an eye out for the local hoodie population.

Hoodies breed on south-east beaches during the warmer months, meaning that the Coorong and Limestone Coast become a crèche between August and March.

Read more

Northern and Yorke

Yorke Peninsula is home to SA’s largest regional hooded plover population, making up 37% of the total SA population and 19% of the combined numbers from SA, Victoria and New South Wales.

The biennial count in November 2020 showed a steady rise in hooded plovers on Yorke Peninsula, with a 15% increase within two years. This amounted to a total of 285 adult hooded plovers, 37 more than the 2018 count. The next biennial count is scheduled for November this year.

Marna Banggara, which includes Birdlife Australia’s Beach Nesting Birds project, is jointly funded through the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the South Australian Department for Environment and Water, WWF-Australia and Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, in partnership with the Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation.

Kangaroo Island

Through its Grassroot Grants program, the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board has funded and supported Birdlife KI to set up beach signage regarding hooded plovers’ protection. The signs have been erected on multiple KI beaches, with a resulting increase in beach users monitoring nests and chicks, and greater awareness of what communities can do to protect hooded plovers and other shorebirds. The board also supports surveys of hooded plovers, which serve as an important indicator for KI’s feral cat eradication program.

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