Vulnerable plover young at high risk

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Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
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A red capped plover at South Beach, Port Denison.
Camera IconA red capped plover at South Beach, Port Denison. Credit: Supplied/Pictures: Kathy Samulkiewicz, Kathy Samulkiewicz

A series on local birdlife by Guardian reporter Geoff Vivian

The red capped plover is a bird beach-goers often walk past without noticing, as its sandy-coloured eggs are well camouflaged in simple nests scooped out of the dunes.

They are easy prey for snakes and other birds, as well as humans and their vehicles and pets.

Local birdwatcher Kathy Samulkiewicz sent in several pictures she took at Port Denison’s South Beach before asking a passer-by to keep her dogs away — and being told to “rack off”.

“I showed them the photos. They never realised how vulnerable these birds are,” she said.

Shark Bay Shire councillors have debated the merits of closing a favourite four-wheel-drive track to local mangroves, partly to protect these birds.

Red capped plovers can be found on sandy beaches and better-watered parts of inland Australia such as lakes, claypans, swamps and sewage ponds. Western Australian Birds author Ron Johnstone says they mostly nest from August to November in the south and February to September in the tropics.

However, Ms Samulkiewicz said she had seen them nesting all year round at South Beach.

One of her photographs shows a plover feigning injury by trailing its wing along the beach to divert her attention away from its nest.

Johnston says this “broken wing trick” is a common ploy by both parents, as both parents look after the eggs and chicks when they hatch.

Red capped plovers are understood to typically lay two eggs and feed on insects.

Unlike other plovers, they do not seem to have a regular seasonal migration, but are known to flock to inland lakes to nest and breed after heavy rains.

Although red-capped plovers seem to prefer to stay within Australia, they are also sometimes found in the southern parts of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand.

They are not considered to be a threatened or endangered species.

Birdlife Australia’s local chapter can be contacted on 0438 643 773.

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