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Hooded Plover Thinornis cucullatus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species has been uplisted to Vulnerable because it has a small population, which has been estimated through monitoring to be undergoing continuing declines of over 10% in three generations (39 years). Declines in eastern Australia are caused by reduced breeding success as a result of disturbance by people, dogs and horses, as well as predation by introduced foxes and native Silver Gulls and Australian Ravens that have increased as a result of human activity; in Western Australia declines are less marked and driven by habitat degradation arising from cattle grazing and water abstraction for agriculture.

Taxonomic source(s)
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Thinornis cucullatus (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously listed as T. rubricollis; the name cucullatus has priority.

Charadrius rubricollis Collar et al. (1994), Charadrius rubricollis Collar and Andrew (1988), Charadrius rubricollis BirdLife International (2000), Charadrius rubricollis Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Thinornis rubricollis

Distribution and population

Thinornis cucullatus is endemic to Australia and is found in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland (vagrant), Tasmania and nearby islands. The eastern subspecies cucullatus is restricted to the coastline and numbers 3,000 birds (Garnett et al. 2011). Its range has contracted in Queensland and New South Wales, and declines, probably driven by low reproductive success, have been estimated based on monitoring data in all eastern states (Garnett et al. 2011). Calculated population declines include 12% across Victoria from 2000-2008, and 33% from 600 to 400 from 1980-2008 (Birds Australia 2008); 13% between comprehensive surveys across Victoria in 1988 and 1992, but statistically non-significant overall decline 1980-1992 (Weston 1993); 58% on Phillip Island from 1981-1997 (Baird and Dann 2003); c.20% across Tasmania from 1982-2006 (Woehler and Park 1997, Bryant 2002 and E. J. Woehler in litt., in Garnett et al. 2011); 25% on Kangaroo Island from 1985-2004 (Dennis and Masters 2006, in Garnett et al. 2011); and 55% across New South Wales from 1988-2008 (Birds Australia 2008; NSW Scientific Committee 2008). The declines in New South Wales and Kangaroo Island may be biased towards heavily-disturbed beaches. Though largely secure on small islands, it is likely to continue declining wherever appropriate beach management is lacking (Weston 1993). The western subspecies tregellasi numbers 2,500 birds (Garnett et al. 2011). This population has been subject to less rigorous monitoring but the data available suggest that it may also be in decline.

Population justification
The numbers of mature individuals are 3,000 rubricollis and 4,000 tregellasi. This gives a total population size of 7,000 mature individuals, roughly equivalent to 10,000-11,000 individuals in total.

Trend justification
Ongoing population declines of 10-25% in 3 generations have been recorded in all eastern states based on monitoring and, while monitoring in the west has been less rigorous, it suggests ongoing declines which contribute to an overall decline of >10% for the whole species (Garnett et al. 2011).


The species primarily inhabits sandy, ocean beaches, with the highest densities on beaches with large amounts of beach-washed seaweed, that are backed by extensive open dunes (Schulz and Bamford 1987). In Western Australia the species also inhabits inland and coastal salt lakes (Schulz and Bamford 1987). In eastern Australia, it is an opportunistic feeder and takes a range of invertebrates; however, information is lacking on its diet and feeding habits in Western Australia (Schulz and Bamford 1987). The species shows a preference for nesting on flat beaches and stony terraces (Baird and Dann 2003) and primary sand dunes (Schulz and Bamford 1987, Baird and Dann 2003). It lays 1-3 eggs (usually 3) (Schulz and Bamford 1987, Baird and Dann 2003). Clutches are laid from August to February (Schulz and Bamford 1987) or March (Baird and Dann 2003). Most on Phillip Island are laid from December to February, with the peak in January (Baird and Dann 2003). Hooded Plovers are highly dispersed nesters with relatively large territory sizes (37 ha) to which they are highly site faithful (Weston et al. 2009).


The greatest threat to this species is low breeding success and thus low recruitment (Weston 1993). The primary causes of nesting failure are the crushing of nests and eggs by off-road vehicles and trampling by livestock (Schulz and Bamford 1987, Weston and Morrow 2000, Weston 2001, Baird and Dann 2003), disturbance by people and their dogs (Baird and Dann 2003), flooding by spring tides, predation (Schulz and Bamford 1987), and ill-considered beach erosion management (Weston and Morrow 2000, Weston 2001). Up to 81% of nests and 30% of chicks in the Coorong would have been crushed by off-road vehicles (Buick and Paton 1989), and over 30% of nests were trampled by dogs or people at Mornington before controls were introduced (Dowling and Weston 1999). The species's breeding season coincides with the peak in the summer holiday season, when human presence on beaches is at its highest (Schulz and Bamford 1987, Baird and Dann 2003). Human disturbance increases the likelihood of predation and thermal stress (Schulz and Bamford 1987, Weston 2000). On the mainland, predation by foxes, cats and dogs is considered the most significant threat. The introduction of foxes to Tasmania may threaten the population in this stronghold and introduced predators may now be a problem on Kangaroo Island, another refuge for the species (M. A. Weston in litt. 2007). Around human settlements, artificially high numbers of Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae and Raven Corvus spp. are responsible for an increasing number of predation events. However, it is not known exactly what effect these mammalian and avian predators have had on the species's breeding success overall (M. A. Weston in litt. 2007). Ongoing development is opening up areas of coastline to human activities and further developments (M. A. Weston in litt. 2007). Oil-spills represent an additional threat (Weston 2003). Birds remain relatively secure on islands and where active nest protection operates; however, on Phillip Island, declines between 1982 and 1998 suggest that breeding success was too low to sustain the local population, probably due to anthropogenic causes of nest failure (Baird and Dann 2003). The species's coastal habitats are threatened with degradation by marram grass Ammophila arenaria and other introduced coastal weeds (M. A. Weston in litt. 2007). The population in Western Australia is considered to be in less danger because, in addition to beaches, it breeds on inland and coastal salt lakes where human disturbance events are rare (Schulz and Bamford 1987), especially in remote areas. Predation by foxes is probably the main threat in Western Australia, but it is not known whether this constrains the population. Pollution of lakes may also affect the western population (M. A. Weston in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Underway
Significant ongoing research is being carried out into the management of this species (Weston 2001, Dodge et al. 2003). There are already regular surveys of this species, and detailed studies into its breeding biology have been ongoing. Effective beach-sharing protocols have been developed. Cages have been used successfully to protect nests, although the risk of adult mortality may mean that the idea is abandoned (M. A. Weston in litt. 2007). An Action Statement has been prepared for its conservation in Victoria. A draft Recovery Plan has been prepared for New South Wales and South Australia. Baiting of foxes in some areas of Western Australia is reducing predation.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Study demographic trends including population size, breeding success and growth rate, and the location of key breeding lakes and winter flocking sites (Schulz and Bamford 1987, Holdsworth and Park 1993, Weston 1993, Baird and Dann 2003, Garnett et al. (2011). Monitor levels of nest predation and breeding success, in areas with and without predator and stock control programmes (Garnett et al. (2011). Evaluate habitat availability and risk of habitat loss due to weed invasion, rising sea levels and dune morphology changes. Assess the relative impacts of different threats so that a threat index can be formulated and beaches ranked and prioritised for management (Garnett et al. (2011). Manage, and where appropriate discourage and actively police, the use of key beaches for recreation, and consider bans on vehicle access, horse riding and dog walking in the breeding season (Schulz and Bamford 1987, Baird and Dann 2003, Garnett et al. 2011). Where necessary reduce predation by cats and foxes and manage native predators (Schulz and Bamford 1987, Baird and Dann 2003). Manage refuse near beachside towns to reduce numbers of gull and raven species. Advocate for suitable coastal planning and erosion control activities (M. A. Weston in litt. 2007). Adequately fence livestock from key breeding sites (Baird and Dann 2003). Identify and manage key breeding lakes and winter flocking sites. Engage the public in research, monitoring, management and advocacy.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Baird, B. and Dann, P. 2003. The breeding biology of hooded plovers, Thinornis rubricollis, on Phillip Island, Victoria. Emu 103(4): 323-328.

Birds Australia. 2008. November 2008 biennial Hooded Plover count.

Dodge, F.; Bunce, A.; Weston, M. 2003. Temporary beach closures. Wingspan 13(1): 6.

Dowling, B., Weston, M. A. 1999. Managing a breeding population of the Hooded Plover Thinornis rubricollis in a high-use recreational environment. Bird Conservation International 9: 255-270.

Garnett, S. T.; Crowley, G. M. 2000. The action plan for Australian birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Garnett, S. T.; Szabo, J. K.; Dutson, G. 2011. The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

Holdsworth, M.C. and Park, P. 1993. 1992 survey of the hooded plover in Tasmania. Stilt 22: 37-40.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: (Accessed: 19 June 2012).

NSW Scientific Committee. 2008. ‘Hooded Plover Thinornis rubricollis. Review of current information in NSW’. Unpublished report arising from the Review of the Schedules of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.. Hurstville.

Schulz, M. 1993. A survey of the Hooded Plover on the northwestern Tasmanian coastline, from Macquarie Harbour to Bluff Point. Stilt 22: 40-43.

Schulz, M.; Bamford, M. 1987. The Hooded Plover: an RAOU conservation statement. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, Melbourne.

Weston, M. 1993. Twelve years of counting the Hooded Plover in Victoria, Australia. Stilt 23: 15-19.

Weston, M. 2003. Oil spill response. Wingspan 13(2): 6-7.

Weston, M. A. 2000. The effect of disturbance on the breeding biology of the Hooded Plover.

Weston, M. A. 2001. Managing the Hooded Plover in Victoria: a review of existing information. Parks Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

Weston, M. A.; Morrow, F. 2000. Managing the Hooded Plover in western Victoria. Birds Australia and Parks Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

Further web sources of information
Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline for Thinornis rubricollis rubricollis

Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline for Thinornis rubricollis tregellasi

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Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Butchart, S., Garnett, S., McClellan, R., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Crowley, G., Garnett, S. & Weston, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Thinornis cucullatus. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

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Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Charadriidae (Plovers)
Species name author (Vieillot, 1818)
Population size 7000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) -
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species