Published on 15 September 2023

Onkaparinga’s Hooded Plovers need you

It’s Hooded Plover breeding season again and we all need to do our bit to ensure this beloved endangered species survives and thrives.

People driving their vehicles on Onkaparinga’s beaches, in particular, need to be aware of a new council by-law prohibiting vehicles within 20m of a sign indicating a Hooded Plover breeding site.

Hooded Plovers are small shorebirds that nest on Onkaparinga’s beaches each year during spring and summer (August to March)—the same time of year that people most love to head to the beach. This makes raising chicks a very risky business for Hooded Plover parents!

That’s why the City of Onkaparinga is reminding everyone of the simple things we can do to keep little hoodie bundles of fluff safe until they’re big enough to fly (‘fledge’) and can fend for themselves.

Easy things you can do include:

  • leashing your dog when walking past breeding zones—there’s now a council by-law that dogs must be on lead within 100 metres of a Hooded Plover dog on-leash zone sign (pictured)
  • walking by the water’s edge to give Hooded Plovers some space
  • driving slowly on Onkaparinga’s vehicle-access beaches so you can spot Hoodies and their chicks—remember that Aldinga, Moana, Silver Sands and Sellicks have a 10km/h speed limit and you must keep vehicles at least 20m from a hooded plover breeding site.

So far this year, at least eight chicks have hatched across Onkaparinga's beaches, including three at Aldinga Beach north this week!

Eggs are sometimes washed away during storms or stolen by predators, but breeding pairs of Hooded Plovers can make up to nine nesting attempts in a season, so there’s always hope for a record year of fledged chicks.

Last season saw four chicks fledge on Onkaparinga’s beaches, with three in 2021–22 and a record five in 2020–21. 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 hoodies are so vulnerable

There are less than 70 hoodies across Adelaide and the Fleurieu Peninsula, and only 500 to 800 in South Australia.

They nest on the beach near the base of dunes and lay their eggs in a shallow dent in the ground, known as a ‘scrape’. Eggs and newborn chicks are very well-camouflaged and hard to see. While this helps protect them from predators, but it also means they can be accidentally stepped on and crushed.

Hoodies typically lay three eggs, which take 28 days to hatch. The parents take turns sitting on the nest but will leave it if disturbed by vehicles, humans, dogs or other predators.

Parents and chicks forage for food on all parts of the beach including at the water’s edge—getting there can be an extra challenge on a busy beach. Keep an eye out for their tiny trident-shaped tracks weaving crazy patterns in the sand!

Hooded Plovers are Australia’s most threatened beach-nesting bird and the species is at risk of becoming extinct if they can’t successfully breed on our beaches.

It’s a team effort

Dedicated BirdLife Australia Hooded Plover volunteers visit Onkaparinga’s beaches every day during breeding season to spread the word, monitor nests, collect data, and maintain signage and fencing to protect the birds and alert beachgoers to their presence.

Data shows that this national program is working and new Hooded Plover nesting sites are now being found further north on metropolitan Adelaide beaches.

Council receives daily updates from BirdLife Australia volunteers about their fencing and signage needs. Council’s Natural Areas Conservation team supplies equipment for temporary fencing which is installed in partnership with trained volunteers when a nest is found.

Council rangers patrol local beaches to assist the public to comply with advice on the best ways to help the birds thrive. The rangers meet with members of BirdLife Australia and volunteers at the start of each breeding season to discuss training initiatives and protective measures to assist in the protection of the Hooded Plovers.

To learn more about Hooded Plovers, visit the Green Adelaide and BirdLife Australia websites. For up-to-date local information about Hooded Plovers on Onkaparinga’s beaches, there is also a new Hoodies Down South – Adelaide Southern Beaches Facebook page.

The Hoodie Helper group welcomes new volunteers. Please visit the Beach-nesting Birds Hub webpage for more information.

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A close-up image of a Hooded Plover chick on a sandy beach with shells scattered around it.