Published on 07 September 2022
Do your bit this Hooded Plover season
The Hooded Plover breeding season (August to March) is in full swing and it’s up to everyone to ensure the threatened shorebirds thrive.
That’s the key message City of Onkaparinga is reinforcing on National Threatened Species Day, as the weather warms up and more nesting attempts take place across the region’s beaches.
Dog owners in particular are being encouraged to take note of a new bylaw coming into effect in November to help ensure the survival of the region’s Hooded Plover chicks (details below).
There are currently three nests on Onkaparinga’s beaches—at Aldinga, Ochre Cove and Port Willunga South—which are all marked with temporary signs and rope fencing.
Hopefully they’re the first of many attempts to come, with the goal to see as many fledged chicks (birds that have grown big enough to fly) as possible. Once fledged, their chances of survival and escaping from predators are greatly improved, and just a few healthy chicks each year helps to achieve a sustainable ‘Hoodie’ population.
Last season saw three fledged chicks on Onkaparinga’s beaches, following a record five in 2020–21—a far cry from the breeding season two years earlier when there were no fledged chicks.
Regular breeding sites in Onkaparinga are Moana Beach, Ochre Cove Beach, Maslin Beach, Port Willunga Beach, Snapper Point/Aldinga North, Aldinga Beach, Silver Sands and Port Stanvac.
Why are Hoodies so vulnerable?
Hooded Plover chicks have a low chance of survival because they can’t fly for the first five weeks; become easily frightened by human and off-leash dog activity and are susceptible to a range of predators.
Chicks are very well camouflaged, which helps protect them from predators, but means they can easily be stepped on, particularly because they also tend to sit still when frightened.
When the adults are disturbed by humans, dogs and vehicles, their chicks are left without protection, and are more likely to get taken by predators such as seagulls or kestrels.
Hooded Plovers are Australia’s most threatened beach nesting bird, and the species is at risk of becoming extinct if they can't continue to successfully breed on our beaches.
How you can play your part
Beachgoers are urged to look for Hooded Plover signs and follow the directions of BirdLife Australia volunteers and council rangers to avoid accidentally harming or disturbing the birds.
Dog owners need to be particularly mindful around Hooded Plover breeding areas, with a new bylaw for managing dogs in the council area that will come into effect on 28 November.
The new bylaw means dogs need to be on-leash in a Hooded Plover dog on-leash zone—an area within 100 metres of any sign that includes the words ‘hooded plover’, or indicates hooded plovers are present in the area.
Dogs are also prohibited in Hooded Plover nesting areas, which have been enclosed with a temporary fence by an authorised person. New signs and education will be used to let people know when and where the by-law applies.
A team effort
BirdLife Australia Hooded Plover volunteers visit beaches every day to maintain temporary fencing that helps protect nests and gives the chicks a safe refuge, record data, and talk to beachgoers on how to help them survive.
When volunteers locate a nest, breeding success is supported by the guidelines included in the Hooded Plover Program Response Plan created by project partners BirdLife Australia and Green Adelaide.
City of Onkaparinga supplies temporary fencing and signage and supports trained BirdLife Australia volunteers to install them to alert beachgoers to the Hoodies nesting nearby.
Council ranger patrols at local beaches help the public to comply with the advice given to help the birds thrive.
If you would like to learn more about Hooded Plovers, visit the Green Adelaide and BirdLife websites.
New volunteers are welcome to join the Hoodie Helper group – visit beachvol.birdlife.org.au for more information, or visit the information stall at the Willunga Farmers Market this Saturday 10 September.
Two juvenile Hooded Plovers on the day they learnt to fly at Maslin Beach in January 2022. Photo: Sue Read. Please note: the accompanying photo was taken by a trained volunteer using a telephoto lens (the image has also been heavily cropped), ensuring the birds aren’t disturbed.