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.