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Welcome to Birdata 09 February 2016

Hooded Plover: They're Different in the West

Michael Weston

Though the Hooded Plover is a threatened species, it is a surprisingly familiar shorebird to many beachgoers. During the summer months, increasing numbers of people visit the ocean shores to surf the waves, bask on the sand or walk along the beach, where they come into contact with the species. In the early 20th century, Sir Charles Belcher wrote "I do not know a more charming little bird than this ... Scattered in pairs during the summer all along the ocean beach ... you may see the plump little bodies on tiny twinkling feet racing down from above the high-water mark where their nest is hidden, then hurrying along the hard beach at the water's edge in front of you ... Follow them along the beach, and after a few hundred yards they will fly out to sea and behind you to their home again."

This description could have been written yesterday, as it is as accurate now as it was a hundred years ago. That is, at least, in south-eastern Australia. Where the species occurs in south-western Australia, this is only half the story. In the populations west of the Nullarbor Plain, though some Hooded Plovers occur along the sandy ocean beaches, others gather at inland saltlakes, sometimes hundreds of kilometres from the seashore. It is in this harsh, dry habitat that they lay their eggs in shallow scrapes in the ground. After breeding has concluded, many move closer to the coast, but still eschew the beach, preferring to congregate at near-coastal saltlakes instead, sometimes in flocks of hundreds of birds.

The accompanying map shows the two distinct populations of Hooded Plovers on either side of the continent. They are separated not only geographically, by the semi-arid barrier of the Nullarbor Plain, but also by their preference in habitat. Records well inland in Western Australia are of birds at semi-arid saltlakes such as Lake Deborah, Lake Grace and Lake King.

If you want to discover more information about this species or any other birds that occur in Australia, just follow this link and you can explore Birds Australia's fascinating world of birds.

If you want to discover more information about this species or any other birds that occur in Australia, just follow this link and you can explore Birds Australia's Atlas of Australian Birds.


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