The Hooded Plover is found along the southern coast of Australia, from Tasmania, though Victoria, South Australia and southern Western Australia. Its preferred habitat is sandy beaches where there is plenty of seaweed and there are nearby rocky outcrops, reefs and sand dunes. In some parts it can be found at salt lakes some distance inland in SA and WA. It lays its 2 or 3 eggs in a shallow scrape in the beach sand during the months of September to January.
The Hooded Plover is an endangered species. On the Fleurieu Peninsula near where I live there are fewer than 75 left, according the warning sign near the beach at Victor Harbor (see below). On a visit to Victor Harbor some years ago I was walking along this beach watching over about 60 primary school children on an end of year school camp. Trying to keep so many little feet away from the nest with two eggs took a major effort, but the birds patrolling the beach nearby were not too disturbed. Why they chose one of the busiest beaches in South Australia to lay their eggs is a mystery to me! I hope they survived.
The bird in the photo above was not taken at the beach. It was of a bird in an aviary at Adelaide Zoo where the keepers have cleverly recreated a small sandy beach to imitate its natural habitat.
Early last year I took this photo of a sign on the beach front at Victor Harbor, about an hour’s drive south of Adelaide in South Australia. The message of the sign is quite clear. This beach is one of the nesting places of the rare and endangered Hooded Plover. The beach also happens to be one of the busiest in the state during the summer holidays and is even popular at most other times of the year.
Hooded Plovers are confined to coastal areas of southern NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and parts of Western Australia. Nowhere is it common and, as the sign says, very few are left in places like the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide. The birds are small (about 19-23cm) and tubby, and their favoured habitat is broad sandy ocean beaches. The nest is a small shallow scrape in the sand where they lay 2-3 eggs.
If my memory is correct, this beach at Victor Harbor is the only place I’ve ever seen this species nesting. I was leading a large group of young children on camp when we came across a nest. Keeping 60 eager children away from the nest was a logistical nightmare. I’ve only ever seen this species on a handful of occasions, mainly on the Yorke Peninsula further west in South Australia. I have no photos of the Hooded Plover. I must try to get one when I visit the town again in about a week’s time.