Red-capped plovers are small shorebirds, with an average height of 15cm and an average weight of 37 grams.
They are of great interest locally since they come to our beaches in summer to nest and raise their young. Red-capped plovers are often seen at Semaphore South (near the entrance to the beach at the end of Bower Road) and at Mutton Cove. They can also be seen at Taperoo, and further north e.g. St Kilda saltfields and Thompson Beach and down south e.g. Port Stanvac.
The nests of red-capped plovers are a shallow scrape on the beach and it’s wise not to get too close to them, since the nests are easily missed in the sand. One pair even nested in the seaweed at Taperoo this summer. Red-caps were also observed nesting in the heatwaves of 2014.
Unlike other shorebirds, it is easy to distinguish between male and female red-capped plovers because of the distinctive red caps of the males.
The parents share nest duty and females can be observed on their nests during the day. Sensibly, given their visibility, the males sit on the nests at night. The average nesting period is 34 days.
While baby red caps are so small that they’ve been described as ‘olives on tooth picks’, they do grow quickly. Within three weeks of their birth their size may make them hard to distinguish from adults. However juveniles do retain their paler colour for up to six month.
BirdLife Australia coordinates the volunteer program to monitor red-capped plovers. BirdLife has also banded some with distinctive orange leg flags so that we can better understand their movements.
Volunteers have been involved in monitoring since 2014 and 891 ABC provided this story (18/1/16) on efforts to protect and monitor red-caps.
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