Hooded Plover

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Hooded Plover nest, easily damaged by foot traffic.

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Australian Ravens can take chicks from the nest. Image taken with Keep Guard remote camera, setup and monitored by Birds Australia.

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Fox visiting nest, with an egg in the nest beside the left front leg of the fox. Image taken with Keep Guard remote camera, setup and monitored by Birds Australia.

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Fox visiting nest at night. Image taken with Keep Guard remote camera, setup and monitored by Birds Australia.

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Hooded Plover and chick taken by Glenn Ehmke.

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Hooded Plover and chick at Point Roadnight taken by Glenn Ehmke.

Hooded Plover (eastern)
Thinornis rubricollis rubricollis
Australia: vulnerable
Victoria: vulnerable
FFG: listed, Action Stat. No.9

Hooded Plovers are mainly found along the southern coastline of Australia where two populations are recognised, one in Western Australia and the other in south eastern Australia (South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and southern New South Wales). Population estimates for south eastern Australia vary up to 3000 birds (EA 2000) with counts between 334-538 birds in Victoria (Weston 2003) and an upper count of around 210 for SW Victoria (Lane 1987), which ranks Victoria’s South West as being an important area for this species.

The adult Hooded Plover is about 20 cm high, sandy-brown above with a white underside. Conspicuous features when viewing in the field are its black head and a white nape (collar at base of its neck) and a broad black line extending across its lower hindneck to each side of the breast. Its bill is red with a black tip. Males and females appear similar whilst juveniles can be distinguished by the lack of black markings and red bill.

Habitat & Ecology

In the South West of Victoria, Hooded Plovers are most likely observed in pairs, sometimes in small groups on wide sandy ocean beaches and at mouths of rivers where wide sandy areas are formed. They are often found where seaweed and other beach washed material has been deposited which provides a certain amount of shelter and a harbour for food such as sandhoppers.

Ranking of key habitats in the South West: (adapted from Weston 2003) It should be noted that although there may be variations in counts from year to year the following ranking is based on broad patterns of counts over time.

  • Eumeralla (Yambuk Coastal Reserve)1
  • Discovery Bay Coastal Park3
  • Lorne – Queenscliff Coastal Reserve8
  • Port Fairy to Warrnambool Coastal Reserve9
  • Otway National Park9
  • Bay of Islands Coastal Park11
  • Port Campbell National Park12
  • Yambuk Flora & Fauna Reserve14

(Rankings include all 16 Parks Victoria managed parks where Hooded Plovers have been counted in Victoria. 1 indicates most birds.)

Breeding is carried out on ocean beaches, nests are a depression in the sand usually in association with dry seaweed and located above average high tide levels up into the primary dunes. Nests can contain two to three sand-coloured eggs and incubation is about 30 days. The nesting season extends from August to February.

The Hooded Plover is an opportunistic feeder and feeding takes place by day and night according to the availability and behaviour of prey that is, in turn, influenced by tidal levels and activity of prey. Diet consists of insects, amphipod crustaceans (sandhoppers), polychaete worms and small bivalve molluscs.


An assessment of risks to Hooded Plovers has been conducted on Parks Victoria (PV) managed land (which comprises about 82% of the Victorian population). The four highest risks that have the most impact are: human disturbance, introduced predators, habitat modification and dogs. Overall, Hooded Plover populations are declining because of low breeding success and availability of habitat which is likely to limit the amount of breeding (Weston 2003)

Breeding success can be severely limited due to a range of natural and human related factors. High seas can wash away nests, eggs or chicks, predation by foxes, cats, silver gulls, ravens and other scavengers, disturbance by dogs and humans and physical crushing of nests and eggs by vehicles, trampling by stock, horses and foot traffic. Due to the long incubation period and the inability of chicks to fly for at least three weeks each clutch is vulnerable to a range of threats for nearly a two-month period. Considering the breeding season also coincides with the highest period of beach usage by humans this can add additional pressure, which can result in low breeding success.

Monitoring of the 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 breeding seasons found that out of a total of 304 nests there were 714 eggs in total but only 67 birds reached fledgling stage. 64% of nests failed during the egg stage of development. Fox predation, impacts from high tide events and disturbance from humans and dogs were recorded as causes for loss (Birds Australia 2008).

In recent years there has been disappointing results from nesting attempts at Pt Lonsdale, 13th Beach, Baraham River and Logans Beach, Warrnambool. These are all highly used areas by the public and people need to be aware of the need to keep away from nests and control dogs to minimise disturbance to Hooded Plover eggs and chicks.

Management Actions

A key measure is to ensure the Hooded Plover’s feeding and nesting areas are retained in natural conditions with minimal disturbance from predators and human activities. Parks Victoria has undertaken a comprehensive review of threats and risks to Hooded Plovers on PV managed land (see Weston 2003, for more detailed analysis of risks and threats and management options).

Every second year counts are conducted along Victoria’s ocean beaches by walking along pre-selected ocean beaches, the next count is scheduled for 2012. Additional counts for odd years is proposed, these would take place in Autumn rather than Summer. Counts are co-ordinated through the Threatened Bird Network.

Results from the 2010 count found 213 Hooded Plover adults and 9 juveniles between Queenscliff and the South Australian border which is similar to previous counts.

Scout guard (remote) cameras are being used to monitor selected nests to detect their fates and to better document hatching success rates, especially to understand whether there are different suites of predators for dune versus beach nests (often nests fail on the day they were due to hatch, so to know whether they have definitely hatched is very important information).

A new colour marking system is being used in 2011 which has engraved (with two letters) orange flags on the upper leg as opposed to the other systems of 3 colour bands method of identification. The aim is to determine the survival rate of fledglings as there is a big gap in knowledge of what happens to fledglings. By late December 2010, 17 Hooded Plovers on the Bellarine Peninsula and Bass Coast have been flagged. Numerous reports have been received which has enabled the tracking movements from Barwon Heads to Torquay for example.

Specific actions in the South West region (from the DSE Actions for Biodiversity Database) The Hooded Plover is regarded as being of major project status for the DSE in the South West Region

Actions specific to Lower Glenelg National Park & Otway National Park

  • Ensure that conservation of the Hooded Plover is considered in all feral Cat and Red Fox control programs in coastal areas.
  • Restrict management vehicles to essential activities, especially from August to February. Vehicles should be driven close to the water's edge, as far as possible from breeding or potential breeding sites.
  • Liaison with beach-users and groups such as pony clubs, 4WD associations and angling associations to reduce their impact on breeding birds.
  • At heavily frequented sites, where breeding pairs are high susceptible, PV staff will be trained to provide educational information that will reinforce the impact of the signposting and fencing.
  • Undertake detailed population monitoring.

Additional actions specific to Otway National Park

  • Monitor the impact of increasing visitor numbers and the effectiveness of signposting.
  • Investigate using signs and information shelters in areas of high visitor use to promote public awareness of the habitat and survival requirements of a range of shorebirds.

Actions for other areas

  • Encourage local bird observers and field naturalist clubs, friends groups and other interested bodies to begin or continue to monitor local populations, and especially nest sites.
  • Encourage research into the effects of the rapid spread of Sea Spurge along the Victorian coast on the breeding success of Hooded Plover. If required, investigate mechanisms for its control.

Pt Danger, Portland

  • Undertake periodic monitoring at Crumpets Beach via Committee of Management

Point Roadnight

  • Up to 12 birds have been seen flocking at Pt Roadnight. There are only 9 breeding pairs remaining between Point Lonsdale and Anglesea, and then no pairs occur until Wild Dog Creek, Apollo Bay.
  • Erect permanent fence around breeding habitat. During breeding season, conduct monthly survey to identify nests, and erect temporary fencing around nests that are outside permanent fence area.
  • Increase patrols to secure the nesting area from humans and dogs when nesting pairs present.
  • Survey Conducted by Birds Australia, supported by DSE Anglesea staff, Great Ocean Road Coast Committee and volunteers. DSE Contact; Saul Veermeen

Warrnambool to Narrawong

  • This area has a high density of breeding pairs (35% of the Victorian population), however suffers the poorest breeding success in the state due to illegal vehicle use of beaches, horses ridden above the high-tide mark, unrestricted dog walking and loss of dune nesting habitat due to Marram grass infestations.
  • Parks Victoria patrols to control detrimental activities when breeding pairs present.

Narrawong Coastal Reserve, between Narrawong & Portland

  • This is a high breeding area and Parks Victoria will implement actions as above.
Hooded Plover
Results from November 2012 Biennial count

This was a highly successful count with 84% of potentially suitable habitat in Victoria surveyed and 568 Hooded Plovers counted. Across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia a total of 1248 Hooded Plovers were counted. This compares favourably to the 2010 count of 1231. Some locations experienced a decline in numbers and some locations had higher counts.

The highest densities of Hooded Plovers were recorded on the Mornington Peninsula, Bass Coast (San Remo to Inverloch) and between Warrnambool to Yambuk, in Victoria, and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

A worrying outcome is there appeared to be significantly fewer Hooded Plovers between Warrnambool and Swan Lake in Victoria.

Full report from BirdLife Australia.

Results from the 2012/13 breeding season indicate there were in the order of 60 fledglings produced in Victoria, which is a significant improvement on other seasons. Dr Grannie Maguire, BirdLife Australia 03 9347 0757

Actions by Conservation Groups

  • Participation in annual surveys by Geelong Field Naturalists Club
  • Wildlife Victoria – Otway Group undertakes annual surveys from Kennett River to Aire River.
  • Apollo Bay Landcare Group undertake weekly surveys at Wilddog beach.
  • Observations from Port Fairy East Beach

Selected references

See also:

This BIRD page is brought to you by the State Wide Integrated Flora & Fauna Team.

Feel free to edit, but please take care to preserve the integrity of the data. For example, listed management actions are derived from FFG Action Statements and the Actions for Biodiversity Conservation database administered by DEPI and should not normally be changed without prior discussion.

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