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Posted on 16/10/2020 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Taking refuge as Hooded Plover breeding season starts

The Island’s Hooded Plovers have started nesting on some beaches along the coastline, and as the weather improves, residents and regional visitors are also venturing out to enjoy and share these beautiful spaces.

Beachgoers will notice that, on a small number of beaches, simple rope fences, signage and small timber shelters have been installed above the high tide line. These are important refuges that enable parent birds to get on with the job of protecting eggs and chicks from fluctuating temperature, wind, rain and natural predators.

They also give adult birds the space to feel comfortable while they incubate their eggs and protect the tiny chicks that must feed themselves from the moment they hatch. Refuge areas allow the chicks to roam safely as they look for food along the high tide line and to shelter from weather and predators.

“Phillip Island Nature Parks’ and Bass Coast Shire Council rangers regularly monitor nesting sites on the beaches that each organisation manages, as we continue to work together to care for this threatened species,” says Ben Thomas, Phillip Island Nature Parks’ Ranger In Charge.

“Each refuge is carefully placed to play an important role in ensuring the survival of Hooded Plover nests and chicks, while allowing maximum space for residents and visitors to enjoy our beaches.”

“These structures might look simple, but are actually a very effective and targeted statewide strategy that has been refined over more than 20 years. Along with local community support, they have been major factors in reversing the trend of declining Hooded Plover numbers. Before refuges were introduced, an average of only two chicks fledged per year on Phillip Island – that average has lifted to 12 fledgelings per year.”

“We know our community supports us in protecting wildlife, and responsibly sharing our beaches, so that we can all enjoy our beautiful island environment.”

You can help by:
• Staying clear of signed and/or fenced areas where birds are nesting to give them a much greater chance of success.
• Reading nest update signs.
• Keeping dogs on a leash in on-leash areas, and under control and away from refuge areas on off-leash beaches.
• Walking on the wet sand when passing a refuge.
• Not lingering in front of a refuge as they are only in place when birds are nesting.

Some refuges may remain in place over the summer to give the parents and chicks the best chance of survival as they will often try again if their first nesting attempt fails.

Hooded Plovers are small grey and white shorebirds, only seen on beaches, and are sometimes misunderstood and mistaken for the larger, brown and white Masked lapwings, which many people also refer to as ‘plovers’.

Both species have black heads however, Masked Lapwings are characterised by their bright yellow faces, and are commonly also seen away from beaches in our gardens and neighbourhoods. They are wonderfully diligent parents, and will actively protect their chicks if they feel they are under threat.

Thank you for sharing our beaches and helping to protect our wildlife!