Last week more than 80 kilometres of Tasmania's East Coast was walked by NRM North's Defending the Hood project team, in search of threatened hooded plovers.
The survey provides a snapshot that will be repeated on the East Coast and Flinders Island in coming years, to assist in identifying local population trends.
Not to be confused with the common spur-winged plover (masked lapwing) that hangs out on your local oval or roadside, the hooded plover is a small, threatened shorebird that spends its life feeding, breeding and roosting on the beach.
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Tasmanian beaches are thought to be home to over half the remaining eastern population. Hoodies (hooded plover) are vulnerable to human disturbance and other threats in their coastal environment and a little extra help is often needed to ensure breeding success.
NRM North biodiversity coordinator Monique Case said the most vulnerable time for a Hoodie was during the breeding season, which typically falls between September and April, peaking between November to January.
"Unfortunately, people's beach use tends to peak at the same time as the breeding season for many shorebirds, including the Hoodies. It's imperative the community are aware of how their actions can give hoodies the best chance of survival."
Hoodies lay their tiny speckled eggs directly on the sand. While they are well camouflaged from predators, they are also incredibly difficult to see and easy to step on! NRM North's Defending the Hood project has partnered with Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service and local community members to identify nests on high-use beaches on the East Coast. Temporary fencing and signage have already been installed around some nests to alert beach-users to keep their distance.
"The team were incredibly pleased to find a number of new Hoodie nests and eggs last week. We know a few chicks have successfully hatched and are now learning the ropes from mum and dad, so we're keeping a close eye on them," Ms Case said.
"Hoodies leave their nests when under threat as a means of distraction, so disturbance exposes eggs and chicks to overheating and predators. If you see a fenced area, please be a good egg and give it a wide berth. Keep your dog on a lead and walk on the wet sand." Disturbance or destruction of nests by people, dogs, horses and vehicles on beaches are the greatest threat to the species. Community awareness and sharing the shore is the best way we can 'defend the hood'.
- Defending the Hood is supported by NRM North with Australian Government funding.
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