Yorke Peninsula hooded plover season rated one of the best

A dedicated team of volunteers on Yorke Peninsula has recorded the survival of 15 more hooded plover fledglings than last year, exceeding breeding season expectations for the shy and vulnerable shorebird that lays its eggs on the beach.

This year’s data shows 19 hooded plover fledglings from 14 pairs, compared to four fledglings from three pairs the previous season. In 2017/18, there were 12 fledglings from eight pairs and nine fledglings from four pairs the year before.

The news is a welcome boost for volunteers who work hard to help hooded plover parents sustain their tiny, camouflaged chicks until they can fly at five weeks of age. Hoodies, as they’re affectionately known, are particularly vulnerable because their nests are exposed, shallow scrapes in the sand and they hatch during the most popular months for beach goers. They survive against the odds by avoiding unsuspecting people and their dogs, vehicles and numerous other predators while they forage for food near the water’s edge.

BirdLife Australia’s Beach-nesting Birds Project Coordinator Dr Kasun Ekanayake considers this breeding season as one of the best for Yorke Peninsula since formal monitoring began eight years ago.

“The hooded plover population on Yorke Peninsula has had a really successful breeding season, managing to produce 15 more fledglings than last year,” he said.

“There are still at least another eight chicks remaining this year and they will hopefully have a good chance of succeeding, mainly because the holiday season is over.”

Hooded plovers have suffered steadily declining numbers across south-eastern Australia and are listed as vulnerable in South Australia and Victoria and critically endangered in New South Wales with only 60 birds remaining in the wild.

Even before the chicks hatch, hooded plover eggs are at risk of being washed away with the tide, crushed by people walking or driving above the shoreline or hunted by foxes, cats, off-lead dogs, ravens, magpies and birds of prey.

Twelve years of fox baiting on Yorke Peninsula through the federally-funded Baiting for Biodiversity program and now the Great Southern Ark project aims to reduce fox and feral cat populations to help native species like the hooded plover thrive.

A strong community group of volunteers on Yorke Peninsula is also making a difference to hooded plover survival rates, by installing signs and fences around nest and chick sites to raise awareness among beachgoers.

“We have been able to detect more fledglings this year as we’ve had more eyes on the ground with a few new volunteers recruited early in the season,” said Dr Ekanayake. “Success on a few popular busy beaches can also be attributed to management, where the volunteers installed fences and/or signs on the beach alerting beachgoers to the presence of nests or chicks.”

Friends of the Hooded Plover Yorke Peninsula volunteer Nanou Cabourdin is thrilled with the outcome at Point Turton, located on the foot of Yorke Peninsula.

“This is my third season monitoring hooded plovers at Point Turton and it is the first time we have had three fledglings,” she said.

“It is really encouraging, but we still need to spread awareness to continue these good results. We are sharing their habitat, so everyone who uses the beach needs to be more aware of beach-nesting birds. We encourage people to respect the signs, walk dogs on lead when birds are present, keep cats indoors and walk or drive below the high-tide mark.”

HELP SAVE HOODIES: Join the count in November

Natural Resources Northern and Yorke Landscape Officer Janet Moore said there were more people than ever monitoring plover pairs this season, but extra volunteers were needed.

“The next opportunity to help this threatened species is through our biennial count, which occurs in mid-November this year,” she said.

“It is a coordinated survey over one weekend, where volunteers across South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales work together to get the best possible population estimate for the eastern subspecies of hooded plover.”

To find out more about the biennial count, contact Janet Moore on 0447 418 391 or email janet.moore@sa.gov.au.

The Great Southern Ark project is a collaborative project led by the Northern and Yorke Natural Resources Management Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the South Australian Department for Environment and Water, WWF Australia and Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. Other partners actively involved in developing the project are Regional Development Australia, SA Tourism Commission, Zoos SA, FAUNA Research Alliance, BirdLife Australia, Nature Conservation Society of SA, Narungga Nations Aboriginal Corporation, Primary Producers SA, Primary Industries and Regions SA, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Legatus Group, Yorke Peninsula Council, Yorke Peninsula Tourism and the Scientific Expedition Group.

More information