Hooded Plovers

PORTSEA’S FAMOUS HOODED PLOVERS

Portsea Back Beach is home to a threatened species of bird known as the Hooded Plover.

This summer we have two nests with five young chicks, born only last week. The nests are clearly marked, down near Franklin Road. They are on the sand, close to the high tide mark.

Sadly, the survival rate of chicks is very low and this summer we want to do our bit to give these guys the best possible chance.

How can you help?

  • Stay out of the nest areas, and observe from a distance. If you see members of the public interfering, feel free to remind them to stay away;
  • Ensure the ATV is only used in the allowable area, between the stair cases from the lower car park (to the east of the clubhouse) and the upper car park (to the west);
  • Do what you can to educate the public.

About the Hooded Plover

The Hooded Plover is a species of beach nesting bird that had prime habitat on the beaches of Mornington Peninsula National Park. It is classed as threatened federally and in state listings. There are currently 500-600 individuals left in Victoria with numbers declining due to increased breeding pressures by humans, introduced species (dogs, foxes, horses), native predators (magpies, gulls, ravens, birds of prey) and environmental factors (tides, extreme weather events).

Birdlife Australia’s current statistics indicate that 23% of nests hatch, 20% of chicks fledge and 55% of fledglings survive and reach adulthood.

Hooded Plovers are non-migratory birds although may flock during the winter months, come September-April they will be on the same territory year after year with the same mate for life. Some of the breeding pairs on Portsea Back Beach have been residents of our beach for more than 20 years. They can nest multiple times in a season. The nest takes approximately 28 days to hatch and it takes another 35 days for the chick to learn how to fly. Once the chick is hatched, the parents guard and keep watch for it but the chick itself is immediately-self feeding and independent.

For members of the public it is important in breeding season when walking along the beach to keep clear of the nest and chick fences and to walk past them quickly down by the water’s edge. Any disturbance to nests or chicks can jeopardise its chance of survival. They feed on macroinvertebrates from the wrack line and rocky platforms along the coast so it is important to not block their path if you’re sitting on the beach as the chicks will not walk around you, they need to cool down on hot days and be able to feed.

Parks Victoria works closely with their dedicated friends group (Friends of the Hooded Plover) and Birdlife Australia to manage Hooded Plover breeding sites with constant monitoring and active research. Appropriate management (fences, signs etc) are installed at these breeding sites in order to reduce disturbance from human impact. There are also update and interpretation signs at entrances to the park to educate the community. Parks Victoria also have a fox baiting program along the ocean beaches in order to reduce the threat of introduced predatory species on Hooded Plovers and other native fauna.

Photo credit to Mark Lethlean.