Three coastal birds species are particularly vulnerable along the Surf Coast; Hooded Plover, Red-necked Stints and Red-capped Plovers.
Hooded Plovers are a rare, endangered species and the Surf Coast is home to several Hooded Plover nesting sites. The plovers are now extinct in Queensland, fewer than 50 occur in New South Wales and only 400 are thought to remain in Victoria.
The species is especially vulnerable because they nest on beaches and their eggs are easy to step on and their chicks are susceptible to danger. Any disturbance will also drive adult birds away from their eggs and chicks.
Red-necked Stints are small migratory waders which forage on exposed reefs and in wet sand and shelter amongst the seaweed.
The protected species lives only in estuarine tidal flats, meaning we are very lucky to have them call the Surf Coast home. Around 170-200 of these vulnerable little birds have been sighted in the area.
The stints breed in Alaska and Siberia, and take about 1 ½ weeks to get to Australia with one stopover in Asia. They spend their time in Australia building up their bodyweight for the long trip home in autumn.
Red-capped Plovers are similar in size to the Red-necked Stints, but are white with a grey back and red cap on their heads. They are also beach nesters, so that their eggs and chicks are very vulnerable to disturbance and they are now declining in numbers.
Measures are being taken to protect these vulnerable birds
The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee has built a fenced refuge area and erected special signs along the beach at Point Roadknight for the hooded plovers while the Surf Coast Shire Council has designated dog-free zone areas and Birds Australia volunteers monitor sites and identify threats to the birds.
You can help
By ensuring dogs are on the leash on beaches where the birds are found and by avoiding the dog prohibited refuge sites. You can also help by observing the signs and staying well away from any birds.
To get involved
Get involved and play a more active role in their conservation please contact Meghan Cullen at Birds Australia firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 03 9347 0757.
Story provided by Birds Australia, Birds Australia Volunteers and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee for the Surf Coast Times ‘Going Green’ column.