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It takes a village to raise a hooded plover chick

As the hotter, drier weather attracts people and their pets to beaches to cool off, coastal visitors are being urged to look out for hooded plovers nesting along shorelines in Victoria and support the birds by giving them plenty of space and keeping dogs away from breeding areas.

Monday, 13 November 2023 at 1:55 am
A beach scene with a hooded plover nesting in soft sand in the foreground while people walk towards the bright blue ocean in the distance

Now in its third season, the Conservation Regulator’s Operation Save our Hoodies (SoHo), run in partnership with Parks Victoria and Birdlife Australia, is helping protect this vulnerable beach-nesting bird during their crucial breeding season by educating beachgoers and enforcing rules around nesting sites. 

Hooded plovers are tiny, threatened birds which lay eggs in shallow sand scrapes and raise their chicks on beaches between August and March. The species faces significant threats from people trampling nests or scaring them into abandoning their eggs, and from dogs not under control that chase, catch, and kill vulnerable chicks. 

Birdlife Australia data shows approximately 764 eggs were laid along Victoria’s coastline in the 2022-23 season, but the combination of human impacts, predators, and harsh environmental factors meant only a quarter of those eggs hatched, and only 43 chicks survived to become juveniles.

Conservation Regulator and Parks Victoria Authorised Officers are patrolling beaches from the far southwest of the State up to Mallacoota in Gippsland to protect the birds while they are breeding and to give the species their best chance over summer as they face risks from increased beach users. 

Birdlife Australia volunteers also have a presence at beaches to monitor hooded plovers and help protection efforts by raising public awareness of the species, installing signage, and fencing off nesting sites. 

The public is encouraged to keep their distance and report any sightings of hooded plovers nesting in unmarked areas to BirdLife Australia on (03) 9347 0757 or

From September 2022 to April 2023, Authorised Officers conducted 232 patrols along the Victorian coast, engaging with more than 1500 people, and although most beachgoers were doing the right thing, authorities fined 83 people for various offences, including disturbing birds and dog owners not complying with rules near hooded plover habitat.

Hooded plovers are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 and it is illegal to disturb, injure or destroy them; damage their habitat; or interfere with warning signage, with maximum penalties ranging between $3,846 and $46,154. Dog owners must also be aware of local beach regulations, particularly areas where dogs are prohibited, and always keep pets on-lead or under their control, as they face fines up to $4,807 if their dog attacks wildlife.

The Conservation Regulator investigates reports of habitat destruction and dogs harassing hooded plovers. Reports can be made to Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 333 000.

Our coastal patrols over the next few months will focus on protecting this important threatened species and educating beachgoers about how their small actions have big impacts on the survival and growth of native hooded plover populations. We have a responsibility to reduce the threat we add to their habitats.

Monique CugliariForest and Wildlife Officer, Conservation Regulator

Hooded plovers have very limited habitat, restricted to ocean beaches, which is their only opportunity to live and breed. We ask park visitors to consider the difficulties faced by these birds and to assist us with managing impacts to their survival.

Kris RoweArea Chief Ranger Southern Peninsula, Parks Victoria

Our amazing ocean beaches are habitat to unique wildlife, and the survival of species like the hooded plover relies on every beach user to share the beach with the birds and give them a chance at successfully raising a family. Most people are happy to give Hoodies some space once they are aware, but the few people who ignore the rules can jeopardise this.

Dr Grainne MaguireCoastal and Wetland Birds Program Leader, BirdLife Australia