It’s a tough gig being a beach nesting bird – especially for the vulnerable Hooded Plovers (affectionately known as hoodies) that nest along South Gippsland’s shores. Life for these tiny birds is perilous as they constantly protect both themselves and their chicks from disturbance, weather and predators. Luckily, there’s a lot of plover love going around…
West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, BirdLife Australia, Friends of the Hooded Plover, Parks Victoria along with Bass Coast and South Gippsland Landcare Networks have joined forces to deliver a coordinated program of actions to protect the hoodies including:
- Fox control
- Nest monitoring
- Community education.
“This team effort is part of the Powlett River/Kugerungmome Partnerships project where all partners are playing their part in protecting and raising awareness of these threatened birds,” says Paula Camenzuli, NRM Strategic Planner.
Hooded Plovers depend on coastal habitats including beaches, rocky headlands, sandy dunes and estuaries like Kugerungmome (Powlett River) to survive. These are not to be confused with the noisy Masked Lapwings (or Spur-winged Plovers) found commonly in urban areas. Hoodies are smaller and more delicate with a distinctive black ‘hood’, white collar on their throat and a red bill with a black tip.
One key action of the program is controlling foxes which are a major predator of the birds. The program is showing good results to date and targeted control measures will continue along the coast from San Remo to Walkerville to give the plovers the best chance of survival.
Another essential part of the project is regular monitoring of the birds. BirdLife Australia and Friends of the Hooded Plovers volunteers undertook extensive training before the hoodie breeding season to be able to record and observe their behaviour and contribute to the ongoing understanding of their life. Volunteers walk the beaches regularly to observe and record the nesting birds and their chicks and note any changes such as tide damage or nest disturbance.
More recently, volunteers at Powlett River/Kugerungmome were also trained to note any signs of fox activity as part of their bird monitoring. This information helps the fox crew to identify locations to lay soft jaw fox traps and is contributing to the overall success of the fox control program at the river mouth.
Hoodies breed between September to March/April and lay their eggs directly on the sand in a shallow nest scrape on the beach above the high tide mark, or among dunes. This is also the busiest season for people along the coast, so they must share their breeding sites with thousands of beach goers – and their dogs which are a major threat to the birds if off the lead.
We can all play our part in helping the hoodies to breed and survive so project partners took to beaches to spread the word. They set up pop up stalls at beaches across Bass Coast and South Gippsland Shires at locations such as Kugerungmome/Powlett River and Cape Paterson to meet beach goers and engage with them as they took a walk.
The stalls offered expert advice along with useful information such as how to identify the hoodies and how we can share our beaches by simply reading and observing beach signage as you enter an area. All dogs also were given a free lead and treat so they can play their role in doing the right thing for wildlife.
Our coast is a stronghold for Hooded Plovers
The coastline between San Remo and Inverloch is home to the second largest population of Hooded Plovers in Victoria. The beaches provide important breeding, roosting and foraging sites.
The beach between Kilcunda Cemetery and Williamsons and along to the mouth of the Kugerungmome/Powlett River is home to at least seven breeding pairs. The area is also used in the non breeding winter months – with flocks of up to 20 birds having been recorded at the river mouth.
Further east, the coast between Point Smythe (Venus Bay) and Waratah Bay provides important and relatively secluded habitat for Hooded Plovers and other beach-nesting birds to breed and roost all year round.
With around 3,000 individuals remaining in south-eastern Australia, Hooded Plovers are listed as vulnerable in Victoria under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act1988 and federally on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. They are also considered as a vulnerable species at the global scale, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2022.