Know your plovers

There are many different types of plovers and it can often be difficult to distinguish between them. Below are a few tips to help you recognise your local birds and turn you into a bird watching expert!

Hooded Plovers

Hooded Plover family - Frankzed (Flikr must credit)
A Hooded Plover family with a juvenile. See the presence of the white nape, and the difference in colour. Photo: Frankzed

The Hooded Plovers have two unique features to look for:

  • A black ‘hood’ (this doesn’t appear until adulthood)
  • A white nape (back of the neck)

The Hooded Plover lives on sandy beaches on the eastern and southern coast lines of mainland Australia and are also found in Tasmania.

Other features include:

  • Hoodies are around 19 – 23 cm in length
  • Hoodies weigh approximately 100g.
  • Adults have a grey upper body.
  • Juveniles have sandy-brown colouring on their head and body.

Red-capped Plover

Red-capped Plover
Red-capped Plover. Photo: Frankzed

The Red-capped Plover is the most similar shorebird to the Hoodie and a very common and widespread beach-nesting bird.

Features include:

  • Bright reddish-chestnut crown (head) and nape
  • Grey-brown upper body.

Chicks look very much like the Hoodie chick, sandy brown in colour but with no white nape.

The Red-capped Plover eggs are very similar to the Hooded Plover’s eggs and can often be found on the same beaches.

Spot the difference; L Hoodie egg. R Red-Capped Plover egg
Spot the difference! On the left – Hooded Plover eggs, on the right – Red-Capped Plover eggs. Photo: Frankzed

Double-banded Plover

The Double-banded Plovers do not breed in Australia and migrate from New Zealand at the end of Hoodie breeding season.

Spot the difference - Juvenile Hoodie and Adult Double Banded Plover
Left – A juvenile Hooded Plover. Right – A Double-Banded Plover without it’s breeding plumage (feathers). Photo: Frankzed.

Features of the Double-Banded Plover:

  • Black upper band
  • White and chestnut colour across the breast
  • Often confused with a Hooded Plover juvenile due to the grey colouring

Red-kneed Dotterel

Red-Kneed Dotterel (Frankzed flickr - CREDIT)
Red-Kneed Dotterel (Photo: Frankzed)

The Red-kneed Dotterel are usually found in freshwater wetlands however have similar features to a Hooded Plover including:

  • A black hood
  • A black breast-band that grades into chestnut brown flakes.
  • Red coloured legs from the knees up.
  • Around 17cm long

Masked Lapwing/Spur-winged Plover

The Spur-winged Plover is notorious for the defence of their nests and commonly swoop to deter predators.

Masked Lapwing - Swooping (Steve Garner Flickr -  CREDIT)
Watch out! A Spur-winged Plover will swoop you to scare you away from their nest. Photo: Steve Garner

The eggs of the Spur-winged Plover look similar to the Hooded Plover’s eggs however Spur-winged Plovers have a distinct warning call and swoop any threats.

Some features of the Spur-winged Plover include:

  • Black nape and sides of breast
  • An average of 33 – 38cm long
  • Nests in both urban and rural areas.

Ever wondered what type of plover you might be? Take the BirdLife Australia quiz and find out!

Want to know more? Check out this full list of all Australian shorebirds.

Hoodies need space to survive. Remember to #givethemspace and keep your dog on a leash to give our precious birds the best chance of survival.

Have you spotted any of the birds described above? Tell us in the comments!

All the credited photos fall under the Creative Commons Attribution License.
*Please note, these images have been taken by an experienced member of staff. Under no circumstances should the public approach a nesting site of a hooded plover, as these chicks and eggs are extremely camouflaged, easy to accidentally step on and susceptible to predators, heat and beach users. Even trained volunteers do not approach nests to monitor them, but instead do a ‘nest check’ from a distance with binoculars.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s