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Hooded Plover, Thinornis rubricollis

Hooded PloverPhoto copyright Dave Watts

Description

The Hooded Plover is sandy-brown above with a black head and a white nape. A broad, black line extends across its lower hindneck to each side of the breast. The underside is white, and the bill is red with a black tip. The legs are pink. Males and females are alike in appearance. Adults reach 210mm.

Juveniles can be distinguished by the lack of black markings.

It is most usually seen in pairs or small groups, darting about at the water's edge as waves recede, bobbing and pecking along the shore, running quickly and stopping suddenly.

Habitat

The Hooded Plover occurs in coastal areas, on sandy, ocean beaches and their adjacent dunes. They are also occasionally found on rock platforms, reefs, and coastal lakes and lagoons, especially during the non-breeding season.

The beaches preferred by Hooded Plovers tend to be wide and flat, often where seaweed has been deposited. This provides shelter and a habitat for food such as sandhoppers. They also tend to occur at beaches backed by sparsely-vegetated sand-dunes that provide shelter, foraging and nesting sites.

The Hooded Plover usually occurs in pairs during the breeding season and in small to large flocks during the non-breeding season.

Diet

The diet includes worms, insects, sandhoppers, small bivalves, and crustaceans. It also feeds on vegetable material such as seeds.

It is an opportunistic feeder, foraging at all levels of the beach and being capable of foraging both day and night.

Breeding

The breeding season runs from August/early September to March/April. The female lays two to three eggs in a shallow scrape in sand above the high-tide mark on ocean beaches or among dunes. This nest is often near a log, bushes, seaweed or other beach debris. Eggs hatch after a relatively long incubation of about 30 days. Young leave the nest within a day or two.

Call

The call is a short, distinct piping. (Audio recordings courtesy of David Stewart/Nature Sound)
Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania.

Distribution

The Hooded Plover is found in coastal south-eastern Australia from about Jervis Bay in New South Wales to the western reaches of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. A further population occurs between Esperance and Perth in south-west Western Australia.

It is found along the coast of Tasmania and various offshore islands such as King Island and Flinders Island. They can be seen along many east coast beaches, including those at Mt William, Maria Island and South Bruny National Parks.

They are not abundant.

Threats

Research indicates that there has been a decline in the distribution and abundance of Hooded Plovers throughout Australia, including Tasmania.

Spending their lives feeding, breeding and roosting on Tasmania’s shores, Hooded Plovers, like other shorebirds, are vulnerable to human disturbance in their coastal environment. They are at their most vulnerable during the breeding season between 1 September and 30 April - which also coincides with the highest period of beach usage by people. Four wheel driving, horse-riding and tramping above the high-tide mark are just two of the many threats the species faces. Other threats include:

  • Predation of eggs, chicks and adults by domestic and feral cats, dogs and introduced animals such as foxes and rats.
  • Nest failure from disturbance to brooding parents by beach activities.
  • Invasive weeds – sea spurge, marram grass, reclaiming shorebird habitat.
  • Removal of seaweed and beach debris, a source of food and protection for shorebirds.
  • Ingestion or entanglement in litter or fishing line.
  • Rises in sea level due to global climate alteration.

How you can help

  • Walk your dog away from known shorebird nesting areas and keep them on a lead.
  • Walk and ride below the high-tide mark.
  • Don’t drive vehicles on nesting beaches.
  • Be aware of nesting birds.
  • Don’t collect seaweed, or other beach materials.
  • De-sex cats and keep them in at night.
  • Pick up any litter and fishing line.
  • Join a conservation group.