Hooded Plover

Trish Meyer

Denhams Beach, Australia

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Update … the Hooded Plover is now listed as critically endangered with less than 50 birds remaining in the wild in New South Wales.
Information thanks to Redbubble colleague Steve Sass, Principal Ecologist at EnviroKey a specialist ecological consultancy that undertakes surveys, research and education programs across Australia.

Photographed on a beach on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia, the Hooded Plover : Thinornis rubricollis is a medium-sized sandy-brown plover, averaging 21cms in length and 95grams weight. It has a black head and a white nape, and the black hindneck collar extends around and forks onto the breast. The underparts are white. The iris is dark brown, with a red eye ring. The legs are pink. Males and females are similar. Juveniles look like adults, but without the black head, hindneck and front of mantle, which are sandy-brown instead. Juvenile legs are pale orange.

The Hooded Plover occurs on sandy beaches between Jervis Bay, New South Wales and the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, as well as in Tasmania and between Esperance and Perth in south-west Western Australia. They are not abundant and the highest densities of Hooded Plovers occur on beaches with large amounts of beach-washed seaweed. Densities are lowest on narrow, steep beaches, where there are few or no dunes, and where human activities are most intensive. In the south-west, they also occur on inland salt lakes.

The Hooded Plover is non-migratory. Little detailed information exists regarding its movements within Australia. Local movements to salt lakes immediately behind beaches occur in winter in the east. In the west, they move from the coast to salt lakes some distance inland in winter.

The Hooded Plover’s diet includes insects, sandhoppers (Orchestia sp.), small bivalves, and soldier crabs (Mictyris platycheles). It forages at all levels of the beach during all tide phases. 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.

The Hooded Plover excavates a shallow scrape in sand or fine gravel situated above the high-tide mark on ocean beaches or among dunes. This nest may be encircled or lined with pebbles, seaweed and other beach debris. Usually one or two eggs hatch after about 30 days of incubation and the downy young leave the nest within a day or two. Its incubation period is longer than that of other Australasian-breeding plovers.

The Hooded Plover’s survival depends on undisturbed beaches, which are needed for succesful breeding. Off-road vehicles are a particular problem. As well as being listed as endangered in New South Wales and Victoria, it is also listed as a Vulnerable Species on Schedule 1 of the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act, 1992.

Edited from The Australian Museum’s website “Birds in Backyards”

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