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Posted on 17/06/2020 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Hooded Plover season wrap up 

It’s been a year like no other for all of us, including Phillip Island’s Hooded Plovers. A report just released by Phillip Island Nature Parks summarises the 2019-2020 breeding season and the successes and challenges faced by these threatened shorebirds that are classed as Vulnerable in Victoria.

The ongoing management of these rare shorebirds is a key action in the Nature Parks’ 5-Year Conservation Plan and part of our ongoing commitment to protecting and enhancing Phillip Island’s threatened species.

“Overall, the breeding season was positive with nine chicks successfully fledging from six nesting site,” said Mitch Burrows, Nature Parks Nesting Shorebird Officer.

“The number of chicks fledged per breeding pair was 0.47 which is comparatively higher than last season and is within the rate of between 0.45 and 0.5 needed to maintain a viable population.”

Researchers divided the season into three periods to evaluate effects such as weather events and human interactions.

Despite increased nesting attempts during the pre-Christmas and Christmas periods, the first chicks did not fledge until 17 February 2020 in the post-Christmas period after the effects of summer crowds and unsuitable weather conditions.

The birds had further reprieve with fewer beach users due to travel restrictions from March and a further six chicks fledged along the Island’s south coast beaches in mid-April.

The reasons for the early egg failures were largely unknown, so the team will undertake more rigorous nest monitoring including the use of camera traps in the future to determine the causes.

Despite volunteer activities being suspended in April to help slow the spread of coronavirus, an impressive total of 750 volunteer hours were contributed during the summer breeding season including two research interns who conducted management and research activities.

Volunteers monitored beaches where Hooded Plovers were nesting and informed beach users, especially dog walkers, of the vulnerable birds and their chicks and encouraged understanding of behaviours to assist in their survival.

The team also noted a rare event when one pair of birds hatched three chicks at Crazy Birds beach at the same time as a pair around the corner at Forrest Caves hatched two chicks. The Forrest Caves pair walked their two chicks to Crazy Birds where one of the chicks joined up with the Forrest Caves brood. Known as brood amalgamation, this type of event has only ever been recorded once before on Phillip Island.

During winter, the birds take a short break from breeding. They remain on Phillip Island where they may be seen forming small flocks along our beaches. Since Hooded Plover Watch began on Phillip Island in 1998, the then population of around 20 birds has more than doubled to around 43 individuals, or around 20 breeding pairs through active management, research and ongoing community support.

The success of the program can now provide a model for the management of Phillip Island’s other shorebirds such as Oystercatchers and Red-capped Plovers.

You can read the full Nesting Shorebirds report at: www.penguins.org.au/conservationnews

#ENDS#

Media Enquiries:
Roland Pick – Communications Executive
Tel: +613 5951 2825 Mobile: 0418 402 161 Email: rpick@penguins.org.au