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Queenscliffe Herald Article - January 2007

Hooded Plover in Point Lonsdale

By Felicity Thyer
Swan Bay Environment Association

There seems to be a baby boom in Point Lonsdale at the moment, and the birds are no exception.  After failing to breed here for the last few years, a pair of Hooded Plovers has managed to hatch three eggs.

The chicks were hatched on the Point Lonsdale back beach on 4 December, and at the time of writing (in December) all three chicks have been seen with the parents.  There is no guarantee, though, that they will survive to adulthood, with human activities presenting the greatest threat to these birds.

The birds are currently west of the surf lifesaving club and out of the way of the heavy traffic this beach sees over the summer period.  Dogs present a great threat, though, as people often walk dogs where it is a bit quieter.  While not all dogs will chase birds, dogs running off lead near the birds will put them off feeding. 

When the birds are nesting, they will do so above the high tide mark, in a scrape of sand.  The eggs are very hard to see so there is the danger of them being trampled by people or dogs.  The birds will leave their nest if there is any hint of danger and disturbances may lead to their eggs being exposed for too long.

The birds feed on insects, sandhoppers and small crabs found in the seaweed at low tide. As their feeding times are limited by the tides and by the weather, they are unable to cope with too many interruptions.  Threats while the birds are nesting (and there may well be more nesting this season) are dogs off lead, people walking too close or standing on the eggs, which are well camouflaged  in a small scoop in the sand, and foxes, which prey on eggs and young chicks.

Birds Australia have installed signage on the path near the lighthouse reminding us of the presence of these birds nesting (breeding season is from August to February).  Large wooden signs on the beach west of the lighthouse remind people not to walk on the dunes, as the eggs are in danger of being trampled here, and are also a reminder to keep dogs on lead and close to the water’s edge.  Temporary signage has also been put in place on access tracks closer to the breeding area, and staff from Birds Australia are visiting the site to monitor the safety of the birds.

Hooded Plovers are found along parts of the southern coast of Australia, and Birds Australia estimate the population to be 5000-7000.  In south-eastern Australia, the species is considered to be vulnerable. 

So please take care to help preserve this beautiful bird.

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