Lorne welcomes first ever Hooded Plover family

Thursday, 15 February 2024

  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

Lorne welcomes first ever Hooded Plover family

It’s the first time the threatened shorebirds have been recorded breeding in the area.

In December last year, a pair of Hooded Plovers became the talk of the town when they were spotted nesting on a beach in Lorne, on Victoria’s south coast. It was the first record of the threatened shorebirds breeding in the area since monitoring began in the 1980s.

Like other beach-nesting shorebirds, Hooded Plovers lay their eggs directly onto the exposed sand of southern Australia’s ocean shores – and their breeding season coincides with peak tourist season. With crowds of people flocking to Victoria’s Surf Coast beaches over the Christmas break, these plucky little plovers needed a helping hand to give their chicks the best possible chance of survival.

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

After a member of the public reported the sighting to BirdLife Australia’s Beach-nesting Birds team, we arranged for local land managers from the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority to install fencing and signage at the site.

One bird was flagged RA (White) – a male banded by our Beach-nesting Birds team in 2019 that had previously nested nearby at Moggs Creek.

In the middle of the frame, an adult Hooded Plover walks along the wet sand of a beach with one leg raised, reflected in the blue water. On the back leg is a small white tag that reads RA
RA White, the father of Lorne’s first Hooded Plover chicks. Photo by Michael Prideaux

Against all odds, their eggs survived the festivities and the pair successfully hatched two chicks.

Once they hatch, Hooded Plover chicks roam the beach while learning to feed and fly – where they’re most vulnerable to predation and human disturbance. It takes 35 days for chicks to reach flying age – but without human intervention, there’s just a 20% chance that a chick will make it to fledging stage.

Thankfully, the Lorne community rallied around the new locals to keep them safe. Volunteers from BirdLife Australia’s Friends of the Hooded Plover Surf Coast and Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority staff helped monitor the birds, protect their nest site and educate beach-goers about Hooded Plovers and their conservation. Local police even helped ensure the public gave the birds enough space during the New Year’s festivities.

Earlier this week, these efforts were rewarded when both chicks successfully fledged – another first for the area. It really does take a village!

Half of Lorne’s first Hooded Plover family. Footage by Grassland Films

When our Beach-nesting Birds program began in 2006, the population of Hooded Plovers in Victoria was as low as 500 birds – and declining. Thanks to the tireless work of our staff and volunteers who help monitor and protect hundreds of nesting sites throughout their breeding season, the number of chicks hatching at these sites has increased significantly – and their population is slowly recovering.

To the right of the frame, a tiny Hooded Plover chick is standing on the sand of an ocean beach, facing away from the camera and towards the water.
The odds are stacked against tiny Hooded Plover chicks. Photo by Christine Rees
Find out more about our Beach-nesting Birds Program and how you can help threatened shorebirds.