While we were away cruising Bass Strait, we paused our regular Bird Photography Challenge posts. But we are back on land now. So for our return to our fortnightly posting, we are making the Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis) the star of our #51 Bird Photography Challenge. The “hoody” as we affectionately call it, inhabits sandy ocean beaches and during our voyage it was one of the little shorebirds we saw most regularly.
What does it look like?
A medium size, sandy brown plover it is easy to identify thanks to its a black hood, its white neck and black hind neck collar extending to each side of the breast. The upper parts are sandy and the underparts are white. The eyes are also distinctive: dark brown iris with a red eye ring. The beak is red, tipped in black.
How does it behave?
The Hoody’s diet consists of insects, sandhoppers, small bivalves and soldier crabs. It forages on sandy beaches in pairs or small groups, darting around at the water’s edge, bobbing and pecking along the shores. It is very shy and can run at tremendous speed with its little legs to get away from perceived danger before flying off.
Its nest is a shallow scrape in sand or fine gravel above the high water mark on ocean beaches or among the dunes. The nest is sometimes surrounded by pebbles, seaweed or other beach debris, as shown in the photo, with two to three sand coloured eggs with little charcoal markings. These are well camouflaged and blend in to the surroundings, which unfortunately means they can be easily destroyed when people walk on the beach.
Where is it found?
The Hooded Plover is found on sandy beaches in the southern coastline of Australia and in some parts of Western Australia where it forages around the water’s edge looking for invertebrates. It has been declared vulnerable in Victoria and South Australia, and critically endangered in NSW. Studies indicate a drop of 12 to 13% in the population which is declining because of low breeding success and availability of habitat.
Did you know?
The breeding success of Hooded Plovers has been severely hampered by a range of natural and human related factors. High seas can wash away nests, eggs or chicks. Predators like foxes, cats, silver gulls, ravens and other scavengers can often eat the eggs and chicks. Disturbance by dogs and people and physical crushing of nests and eggs by vehicles, horses or foot traffic cause many losses. Add to this the long incubation period (30 days) and the inability of chicks to fly for at least three weeks, and you can see how 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 people this adds additional pressure. A number of conservation measures have been put in place in various locations. Areas where there is active management and high volunteer support tend to be more successful in protecting the Hooded Plover population and the nest sites.
The images of the Hooded Plover were taken on the northern coast of Tasmania, on the Bass Strait Islands shores, and at Phillip Island, using a Canon 7dII and a Tamron 18 to 270mm lens. Some of the nest photos were taken with the Olympus TG4. Click on the first image in the gallery to display in full screen slide show.