Media release

Another Hoody killed renews calls to ban cars on SA beaches

Thursday, 7 March 2024

  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

Another threatened shorebird killed by a vehicle on a beach.

Beach walkers made a grim discovery last week – the body of a juvenile Hooded Plover, a nationally threatened species, laying amongst vehicle tracks on a South Australian beach. Initial findings from a necropsy carried out by veterinary staff at Zoos SA has confirmed traumatic injuries consistent with an impact with a vehicle. BirdLife Australia has previously alerted the South Australian government to the risk of such incidents at the location.

This is the second juvenile Hooded Plover known to have been killed by cars on Australian beaches this breeding season and one of many incidents involving vehicles and shorebirds.

BirdLife Australia is once again calling on the South Australian government for urgent and strong State action and leadership to ensure a better, safer and more sustainable future for South Australian beaches.

The incident occurred on the beach directly between Encounter Marine Park and the recently declared Aldinga Washpool Conservation Park – an area of beach known as a historic Hooded Plover breeding site. BirdLife Australia has previously advised the South Australian Government that the location is one of the top five South Australian beaches where threatened birds are particularly at risk of vehicle strikes.

The bird is presumed to be one of the seven surviving Hooded Plovers hatched on Okaparinga beaches this breeding season – a local record for a species whose chicks often perish before they’re able to fly.

Dedicated BirdLife Australia volunteers have monitored the species for over 15 years, working with locals on ways to safely share our shores with the special birds. The record number of juveniles to survive this season in the Onkaparinga region, despite numerous pressures and lower numbers in some nearby regions, had brought joy to hard-working volunteers. But the elation was short-lived as months of effort were undone in an instant.

To the right of the frame, an adult Hooded Plover with a black head and neck, white front and red eyes and beak is perched behind some seaweed in the foreground among the sand of the beach. In the background, out of focus, is the blurry shape of a human walking along the shore and the blue water of the ocean.
Hooded Plovers nest in a shallow scrape of sand on ocean beaches. Photo by Larissa Hill

Hooded Plovers (or “hoodies”) are small beach-nesting birds who live along some of Australia’s most spectacular coastlines. Their eggs and chicks are camouflaged making them difficult to spot, even at close range. Sadly, this makes the species highly vulnerable to vehicles as drivers have virtually no chance of noticing a chick hiding on the sand.

Hoodies and other shorebirds being run down on beaches has sadly become commonplace in South Australia, where recreational beach driving is allowed almost everywhere along the State’s 4,000km coastline.

Two weeks prior to the discovery of the hooded plover, a 4WD was driven through the middle of a breeding colony of Endangered Fairy Terns on the Young Husband Peninsula, displacing 7-day old chicks.

Scientists and volunteers from BirdLife Australia and Birds SA are continuing to monitor important shorebird nesting sites and are working with communities to reduce the impacts of human activity.

Further information, images and videos of Hooded Plovers and Birdlife Australia’s Beach-nesting Birds Program can be found here.

Quotes attributable to Kate Millar, CEO, Birdlife Australia:

“Another threatened hooded plover run down by a car is a tragic loss for the species – and it was entirely avoidable. Important sites like this are no place for cars, especially at this time of year when hoodies are breeding.”

“Our volunteers and the wider community have given hundreds, potentially thousands of hours to monitoring hooded plovers and working to ensure this threatened species continues to recover from the brink of extinction. Incidents like this, that can easily be prevented, really hurt.”

“We know that the Malinauskas Government understands this issue, and we thank them for taking the time to meet with us previously to discuss solutions. What we need now is the urgent implementation of simple, targeted restrictions so that no more birds are run down by cars on South Australian beaches.”

Quotes attributable to Steven Langley, President, Birds SA:

“Juvenile hooded plovers are precious because they are so rare.  Across the whole 160 km of coastline from Adelaide to Cape Jervis and round to Victor Harbor, we have only had 17 young survive this year.”

“These birds are so desperate to reproduce that they will typically try 7 times a year, laying 2 or 3 eggs each time, hoping that just one chick will survive. So to have a healthy young bird run over on a beach by a car is a sad and unnecessary loss.”

“We need to share our beaches far better.  We call on the Malinauskas Government to implement a far better balance to protect the native South Australian wildlife on our beaches.”

BirdLife Australia Media Enquiries

Please contact James Johnson on 0423 659 324 or at media@birdlife.org.au.