Honour hoodies this Plover Appreciation Day

Hooded Plovers (aka ‘hoodies’) breed between September and March on our local beaches every year.   With only 12 chicks surviving on the Surf Coast between 2010-2015 (6 of those 12 fledging in just one season alone), these precious birds need our support to help ensure their survival.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) works with the dedicated Friends of the Hooded Plovers (Surf Coast) volunteers and Birdlife Australia to protect the hoodies and ensure as many chicks as possible fledge (take flight).

This September 16 BirdLife Australia is celebrating the plight of the plover through the first ever Plover Appreciation Day.

The Day recognises all ground-nesting plovers including the vulnerable Hooded Plover that is often seen breeding on the Surf Coast.

cute birds
A pair of Hooded Plover chicks.  Image: Grainne Maguire

The aim is to raise awareness of the plight of ground-nesting plovers across the world and spread awareness about how everyone can help save them.

Along the Surf Coast, humans and dogs pose are one of the biggest threats to the Hooded Plover’s survival.  Unfortunately, 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, vehicles, horses … ).

The breeding habits of the Hoodie mean they are in direct conflict with not only humans and dogs but introduced predators as well.  To make matters worse for the Hoodie:

  • They lay their eggs on beaches above the high tide level where people like to walk their dogs or lay out their towels.
  • Any disturbance from people or animals can drive the adult birds away from their nests and chicks.
  • The eggs are almost impossible to see, which makes them very easy to step on.
  • The chicks are tiny, fragile and defenceless making them very vulnerable to threats.

It is important that all beachgoers keep their distance from hoodie breeding zones and ‘give them space’.

Not sure where the hoodies breed? Click here to find out.

Photo: Dean Ingwersen
Hooded Plovers are medium-sized sandy-brown birds with a black hood and are currently listed as critically endangered in New South Wales and vulnerable in Victoria and South Australia. Photo: Dean Ingwersen

There a four main ground-nesting plovers in the spotlight this Plover Appreciation Day – the Hooded Plover, Red-Capped Plover, Spur Winged Plover and Black Fronted Dotterel. To learn more about the different types of plovers in Australia click here.

How can you get involved?

To help raise awareness of the Hooded Plover’s struggle for survival, follow these easy 3 easy steps.

1. Like Birdlife on social media

   Hooded Plover

2. Download our Hoodie mask (either the wearable version or selfie stick version)
3. Upload a photo on social media using the mask to express what it means to be ‘vulnerable’

Make sure you use the hashtag: #vulnerablehoodies for your chance to win great prizes.

birdlife hoodie mask
Click here to download the Hooded Plover mask.

For more information on Hooded Plovers, head to the BirdLife Australia website or the MyHoodie website.

GORCC is running a local awareness #SaveTheHoodie campaign to encourage beachgoers on the Surf Coast to keep their dogs away from hoodie breeding zones and encourage everyone to ‘give them space’.  For more information vist the ‘Save The Hoodie’ website.

Interested in getting involved?  To volunteer contact BirdLife Australia at hoodedplover@birdlife.org.au.

Research highlights vital hoodie sites

New research conducted by Deakin University and Birdlife Australia has found that endangered Hooded Plovers select breeding locations based on food availability.

The research compared 56 different beach sites in Victoria and collected more than 7,500 invertebrates to determine the potential food source available at each location.

Study sites along the Victorian coast, between Nelson and Lake Reeve, Gippsland Lakes. Photo: Anna Cuttriss
Study sites along the Victorian coast, between Nelson and Lake Reeve, Gippsland Lakes.
Photo: Anna Cuttriss

Deakin University Honours student Anna Cuttriss worked with Birdlife Australia examine known breeding sites and sites where Hooded Plover’s had not been recorded.

Researchers collecting invertebrate samples using pitfall traps along the Victorian coastline. Photo: Mike Weston
Researchers collecting invertebrate samples using pitfall traps along the Victorian coastline.
Photo: Mike Weston

Birdlife Australia’s Coast and Marine Program Manager Grainne Maguire, who co-supervised the research, said the findings were significant.

“This information will assist in the identification of potential breeding sites and help us to better understand how many Hooded Plovers should ideally exist in Victoria.

“An abundance of food was found in the vicinity of known breeding sites and these sites were largely dominated by amphipods (such as sand hoppers) whereas non-inhabited sites hosted more beetles,”

Hooded Plovers are tagged to track their nesting locations. Photo: Mike Weston
Hooded Plovers were tagged by Birdlife Australia to monitor and identify hooded plover breeding sites.
Photo: Mike Weston

The quantity of Hooded Plover food available on beaches across Victoria varies immensely, highlighting the importance of the current known breeding sites which are limited in number.

Deakin University Senior Lecturer in Wildlife and Conservation Biology Mike Weston said Hooded Plover’s have limited breeding capacity and need help to survive.

“This research has provided insight to how much habitat is actually suitable for Hooded Plovers and the types of food sources they look for when breeding.

“There are so many people in the community engaged in the conservation effort and this research is another piece of the jigsaw,” he said.

Great Ocean Road Coat Committee (GORCC) Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale worked tirelessly with volunteers last breeding season to protect three breeding sites on GORCC managed land.

It was estimated that the Friends of the Hooded Plover Surf Coast volunteers have donated over 1,800 hours of their time working to protect chicks.

Volunteers built huts to shelter nesting hooded plovers at Eastern View.
Volunteers built huts to shelter nesting hooded plovers at Eastern View.

“As a community we need to work together to conserve these known breeding sites and give the Hooded Plovers the best chance of survival.

“The research confirms that these local breeding sites are vital for the ‘Hoodies’,” Ms Beale said.

The full research paper will be published in CSIRO Marine and Freshwater Research Journal later this year.

Hooded Plovers are listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 and have one of the lowest survival rates of any species in the world.

More information on Hooded Plovers is available at our Save the Hoodie website.

Are you interested in helping our wonderful volunteers protect our precious hoodies? Click here for more information about volunteering in the Surf Coast.

Rare bird’s distinct call

You may have heard the unique vocal call of the Rufous Bristlebird, but did you know that the Surf Coast is one of the last places in the world that you are likely to see these birds?

Adult male- Rufous Bristlebird- photo courtesy of Graemechapman.com.au
Adult male- Rufous Bristlebird- photo courtesy of Graemechapman.com.au

The Rufous Bristlebird (Dasyorni Broadbenti) is only found in Australia with a predominance along coastal areas in south-western Victoria.  The species have previously been sighted in south-western Western Australia and south-eastern South Australia, but unfortunately frequent burning has led to its extinction in W.A.

The medium-sized songbird has a loud and distinctive vocal call which makes the bird easily identifiable.

Click here to hear the vocal call between two Rufous Bristlebirds, courtesy of the Internet Bird Collection.

The Rufous Bristlebird is threatened nationwide due to habitat loss from clearing for urban developments and agriculture. They are also prone to predation from foxes and cats.

There have been sightings of the rare bird along the coast between Anglesea and the Gelenlg River.

Have you seen or heard a Rufous Bristlebird in your area? Let us know in the comments below.

For more information about the rare bird click here.

Aussie Backyard Bird Count begins

Community members are encouraged to help celebrate National Bird Week by participating in the first ‘Aussie Backyard Bird Count’ held 20-26 October, inspiring residents to count bird species in their local area.

Participants are free to choose their Bird Count location, which may include their own backyards, local parks, playgrounds, and favourite green patches, with the chance to win a range of prizes.

Bird Week Co-ordinator Jack Walden said the Aussie Backyard Bird Count will be an annual event providing important insight in to how bird species are coping in the spaces we share.

“The goal of the week is for Australian bird counters to spot a total of 100, 000 birds, providing Birdlife Australia with important data to form a more detailed picture of the current state of Australian bird life,” he said.

Mr. Walden said the specifically designed Bird Count application had been released Friday 26 September, giving bird-lovers plenty of time to become familiar with its features before Bird Week.

“The app, featuring over 400 bird species, makes it easier to count all the birds in your favourite patch,” Mr. Walden said.

Rainbow Lorikeet Credit - Andrew Silcocks - BirdLife Australia
Rainbow Lorikeet Credit – Andrew Silcocks – BirdLife Australia

The Bird Count app will include a complete range of capabilities, including a ‘Bird ID’ option for the simple identification of bird species.

Sean Dooley, Editor of Australian Birdlife magazine, said this is an exciting citizen science project which will allow people from across the country to see first-hand the incredible diversity of birds we have in backyards.

“We are so lucky to share our backyard with a large number of amazing birds,” he said.

“Every Australian has their own unique experience with their local birds and for the first time the Aussie Backyard Bird Count will give bird lovers a wonderful overview of the numbers of birds in different parts of the country.”

This Aussie Backyard Bird Count has been developed after the success of similar events in America and the United Kingdom, which have received a large number of participants and bird species sightings.

The event forms part of the national celebrations for Bird Week 2014, with bird-focused events taking place across the country including art shows, bird walks, camps, and breakfasts with the birds.

To download the official Bird Count app, find out more information, or arrange your own Bird Week event, click here.

The below video highlights plants which attract small honey-eaters, insect-eaters, and seed-eaters. You might be lucky enough to spot them in your own backyard!

This article was published in the Surf Coast Times’  fortnightly Green the Coast column – 2 October, 2014 which can be accessed here.

Have you spotted any interesting birds lately? Do you know what species it was? We would love to hear about it!

Farewell Shorebirds

Five million sun-loving Aussie birds are embarking on an epic, 13,000 kilometer journey and you can track their process as part of a national Birdlife Australia event.

On a flight that would exhaust even the world’s most seasoned travelers, millions of birds leave Australia throughout autumn on their annual journey traveling great distances to countries such as China, Korea, Siberia and Alaska.

In their lifetime, migratory birds can travel more than 700,000 – as far as the moon and back.

The Red-necked Stint Photo: Andrew Silcocks/BirdLife Australia
The Red-necked Stint
Photo: Andrew Silcocks/BirdLife Australia

Birdlife Australia is following six of the 35 species that head north each year to escape the Australian Winter, exploring why they make this incredible journey and how they rely on Australia’s coast, wetlands and estuaries for their survival.

Those interested in following the captivating story of the shorebirds’ annual, global migration can sign up at farewellshorebirds.org.au and receive weekly videos and webcasts from Birdlife Australia.

Each webcast will mark the departure of another wave of birds and track their progress as they journey across the globe.

Webcasts feature Australian bird loving comedian John Clarke and are anchored by Sean Dooley, author of The Big Twitch, editor of Australian BirdLife magazine and holder of the Australian Big Year twitching record from 2002 until 2012.

The Bar-tailed Godwit. Photo: Andrew Silcocks/BirdLife Australia
The Bar-tailed Godwit.
Photo: Andrew Silcocks/BirdLife Australia

“Many Australians will be amazed to discover how these birds prepare for this incredible flight including many surprising facts—they shrink the size of their liver and stomach to make it easier to fly so far—this and many other fascinating shorebird facts will feature throughout the webcasts,” said Mr. Dooley

Birds featured include the Curlew Sandpiper—the most threatened of the 35 species, the Red Knot—whose journey stretches the length of the flyway (13,000 kms), and the Bar-tailed Godwit—known to fly 11,000 km non-stop from Alaska across the Pacific in 9 days.

The smallest of the group is the Red-necked Stint which weighs as little as two 50-cent coins.

The tiny bird is one of the many migratory birds that call our region home. Along surf beaches Saanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones, both migratory shorebirds can all be found while the Barwon River and Lake Connewarre are also important shorebird sites.

The ‘Farewell Shorebirds’ event will run from 10 April until 10 May 2014, concluding on World Migratory Bird Day.

The Ruddy Turnstone Photo: Andrew Silcocks/BirdLife Australia
The Ruddy Turnstone
Photo: Andrew Silcocks/BirdLife Australia


Watch the Youtube ‘teaser’:

Join the conversation at farewellshorebirds.org.au or use #FarewellShorebirds on Twitter.

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