Did you know that without active management, Hooded Plovers (aka ‘hoodies’) only have a 2.5% chance of survival from egg to adult? Or that hoodies breed as a pair, with both male and female taking turns to incubate the eggs?
You may have heard of the Hooded Plover but we bet there’s a few things you didn’t know about these beach-nesting birds that breed on our coast.
Below, we uncover some pretty amazing facts about this threatened species, as we explore the life cycle of ‘hoodies’ – a very special bird that calls our local coast home.
Hooded Plovers life-cycle
This stage is where both eggs and parents are the most vulnerable to threats.
- Hoodies breed as a pair, with both male and female taking turns to incubate the eggs.
- Eggs are laid in a small scratch (depression) in the sand usually near vegetation or seaweed and above the high tide zone of beaches.
- They lay 1 one egg every 48 hours and typically have 3 eggs in a clutch.
- Eggs are incubated for around 28 days.
Nests often fail as the parents will leave the nest in an attempt to draw away the threat, which in turn can cause eggs to overheat or freeze.
Chicks are still incredibly vulnerable to threats until they are able to fly.
- Chicks can leave the nest and feed themselves within hours of hatching.
- Parents continue to monitor and look after their chicks until they fledge (reach flying age) at 35 days old.
- Chicks still require brooding for two weeks after hatching as they unable to regulate their own body temperature.
- The chicks cannot fly to escape and parents will try to hide the chicks and draw the threat away from them.
- Once chicks fledge, they may be evicted from their territory by their parents, especially if there is still time in the breeding season for more nest attempts.
These two stages are the most vulnerable stages – with around a 20% survival rate for eggs and chicks.
All grown up:
- Hooded Plovers can reach sexual maturity and start breeding from as early as 12 months.
- During the breeding season, they pair off and occupy around 1km of breeding territory.
- Non-breeding Plovers without territories (floaters) will spend the breeding season in small flocks.
In the non-breeding season, Hoodies may stay within their breeding territory or move to flocking sites which are typically on beaches and estuaries.
Over the course of their life, the Hooded Plovers face an array of threats to their survival. These threats include dogs, foxes, and even natural disturbances such as tides and storms which can damage fragile nesting sites.
Hoodies create nests on the beach during the busiest season on the coast, forcing them to share their breeding sites with thousands of beach-goers (and their dogs).
At all stages of the hoodie life-cycle, you and your dog can be a threat. When you get too close:
- Nests, eggs and/or chicks can be trampled.
- Nests, eggs and/or chicks can be eaten.
- Hoodies can be disturbed meaning they can’t care for eggs/chicks.
- Hoodie parents and chicks can be too frightened to feed.
Other threats include foxes, cats and natural disturbances including high tides and storms, all contributing to the Hooded Plovers low breeding success.
How can I help?
To help give our hoodies the best chance of survival this breeding season, make sure you:
- Stay close to the water’s edge
- Observe signs and keep clear of fenced areas
- Keep dogs on leash or out of breeding zones
You can help GORCC raise awareness about the plight of the Hooded Plover by sharing the official #SavetheHoodie image of ‘Hamish the Hoodie’ (pictured below) on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #SavetheHoodie and go in the draw to win prizes from Ghanda and Go Ride A Wave.
Click here to view all the competition details and terms and conditions.
To find out more information about local breeding zones and dog regulations, visit the Save the Hoodie website.
Have you seen a ‘Hamish the Hoodie’ on signs out and about along the Surf Coast? Tell us about it in the comments below.