Helping our Hoodies
BirdLife Australia volunteers Sue and Ash Read are leading a team effort to protect the Hooded Plover population in our region.
For more than a decade since Sue and Ash Read made a seachange from their rural property, they have been giving their time and care to protecting the Hooded Plovers on our region’s beaches.
The Reads now coordinate a group of Hoodie Helper volunteers who aim to improve the breeding success of the birds in the Onkaparinga area. Hoodie Helpers observe the birds year-round, regularly checking the beaches, identifying when and where the birds are nesting, and raising awareness among the community.
Currently there are seven pairs being monitored in regular breeding sites at Moana Beach, Ochre Cove Beach, Maslin Beach, Port Willunga Beach, Snapper Point/Aldinga North, Aldinga Beach/Sellicks Beach and Port Stanvac.
Last year, from 28 chicks hatched across 18 nests in Onkaparinga, three grew to be fledglings. Two of the fledglings came from the same nest at Ochre Cove and the other from Port Willunga Beach, north of the Star of Greece carpark.
“The amazing support of local beachgoers at Port Willunga was critical to the Hoodies’ success. It was a perfect illustration that beaches can be shared, which is one of the major objectives of the program,” Sue says.
Ash laments the few bleak years prior to last year when no chicks fledged in Onkaparinga.
“We need a few healthy chicks each year to achieve a sustainable Hoodie population,” Ash says.
Data collected by the volunteers is useful to the ongoing protection of the Hoodies and enables insight into shifting patterns in their population. The data also highlights knowledge gaps that need further research, which has resulted in several university studies into things such as what the birds feed on and nest site selection.
Through a banding program that allows individual birds to be identified by the volunteers when they record their observations, valuable information can be collected about how long the birds live, whether the adults pair up for life and where the young ones move after they leave the beach where they hatched.
“The data is showing that we are achieving similar breeding success on our managed beaches than are occurring on remote beaches that have minimal human disturbance,” Ash says.
When the Hoodie Helpers locate a nest, breeding success is supported by the guidelines included in the Hooded Plover Program Response Plan created by BirdLife Australia and Green Adelaide. Council’s Parks and Natural Resources team supplies and installs temporary fencing and signage to alert beachgoers to the Hoodies nesting nearby. Ranger patrols at local beaches help the public to comply with the advice given to help the birds thrive.
“Caring for the Hooded Plovers is very much a team effort with everyone playing an important part,” says the council’s Nature Conservation Project Officer Nikola Manos. “We would not be able to protect the birds without the partners, particularly the volunteers who spend countless hours looking out for each nest.”
New volunteers are welcome to join the Hoodie Helper group.
Visit beachvol.birdlife.org.au for more information about the Hooded Plovers and volunteering. You will be contacted by Sue and Ash or other coordinators when you have registered your interest.
Community care for Hoodie chicks
Cooperation from the community to protect the Hooded Plovers is essential for their survival. Together we can encourage them to thrive. The aim of the program is to obtain a sustainable population via coexistence of beachgoers and the Hooded Plovers on our wonderful local beaches.
Hoodies are easily distressed by humans and dogs. If you see a Hoodie on the beach, give it room by not lingering between the fenced nest and the water. If Hoodie adults are disturbed they will try to lead the threat away, drawing attention to themselves and away from their eggs and chicks. This leaves the eggs exposed to predators and susceptible to overheating and failing. Walk on the water’s edge and keep your dog on a leash.
The fluffy Hoodie chicks are smaller than a golf ball, and they can’t fly until they are five weeks old. Chicks must feed themselves from the day they hatch, so you might see a parent running after the chick on the sand. When frightened, chicks crouch down to protect themselves. Being so camouflaged in the sand, chicks are easily squashed or taken by a dog or other predators. Chicks also need to move outside the fenced area to feed.
Follow the temporary beach restrictions indicated by fencing and signage to minimise disturbance to the birds.
BirdLife Australia volunteers Sue and Ash Read are working to protect the Hooded Plovers on our local beaches, including popular pair Daphne and Harvey. Hooded Plover photos are courtesy of Sue and Ash Read.