Community engagement

Pied Oystercatcher chicks need your your help

Thursday, 12 October 2023

  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes

As we reported on 3 October, 2023, for only the second time in 30 years, Pied Oystercatchers have hatched chicks on a public Sydney beach at Deeban Spit beach, in Port Hacking. The two chicks are doing well – watch this video. However, there are still several weeks of growing ahead for the young birds and they need your help.

Keeping the chicks safe

Pied Oystercatchers are beach nesting birds with beaches being very busy places. They lay their eggs on the sand and only use natural beaches – those with lots of shells and wrack. These provide camouflage to protect both eggs and chicks. Deeban Spit beach is one of the few suitable beaches left in Sydney, as it is not groomed to remove the features so vital to the birds successful nesting.

Volunteers  are needed to help monitor and support shorebirds, including the newly hatched chicks. If you have some spare time to support the shorebirds, please contact with us at conservation.snsw@birdlife.org.au – no experience is necessary.

  Pied Oystercatcher and chick

Pied Oystercatcher parent and chick (spreading its wings). Photo by Julie Keating.

Dogs and shorebirds don’t mix
Deeban Spit and the tidal sand flats next to it, are vital for the survival of shorebirds. This includes the EPBC Act critically endangered eastern curlew and endangered pied oystercatchers.
One of the primary concerns at Deeban Spit is the number of dogs on the beach and sand flats. The new Pied Oystercatcher chicks are under direct threat from dogs and cannot escape until they can fly.  Shorebirds see dogs as predators. They will abandon feeding and resting, and often take flight, if they see a dog even 100 metres or more away. With continued disturbance from dogs on the sand flats shorebirds struggle to feed. They cannot put on enough weight and condition to make their long migration north at the end of our summer. Migratory shorebirds breed in such places as Siberia and Alaska. If shorebirds cannot breed they will be lost forever from Port Hacking.

A campaign is underway to encourage Sutherland Shire Council to declare the sand flats a nature reserve where dogs are not allowed. Sutherland Shire Council also needs to place signage to educate dog owners about not bringing dogs to the beach and sand flats. If you wish to help with this campaign, please contact us at conservation.snsw@birdlife.org.au – we need your help.