Nature conservation

Threatened species

Eastern Hooded Dotterel - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Thinornis cucullatus cucullatus
Conservation status in NSW: Critically Endangered
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Gazetted date: 31 Jul 2009
Profile last updated: 13 Oct 2021


Eastern Hooded Dotterels are small to medium-sized, stocky shorebirds with short bills, large eyes and rounded heads. The Easter Hooded Dotterel is pale-coloured, 19 - 23 cm in length with a wingspan of 26 - 44 cm. It is unmistakable in having a prominent black hood and throat, a white collar, and a contrasting black-tipped red bill, a red eye-ring and short orange legs. In flight, the upperparts are predominantly pale brownish-grey with a black and white tail and broad white wing-barring with a black trailing-edge. The underparts are white. Sexes are alike.


The Hooded Plover is endemic to southern Australia and is nowadays found mainly along the coast from south of Jervis Bay, NSW, south through Victoria and Tasmania to the western side of the Eyre Peninsula (South Australia). In south-west Western Australia the Hooded Plover is not restricted to the coast, and can also live and breed around inland salt lakes. The range of the Hooded Plover has declined in eastern Australia since European settlement. Southern coastal Queensland and northern NSW were probably once part of the range of the Hooded Plover, but the species has not been recorded there since the 1920s. In the late 1920s and early 1930s the species was recorded from Port Stephens but are now considered locally extinct. It has not been seen in the Sydney area since the 1940s. Presently the Hooded Plover occurs in NSW north to Sussex Inlet. Occasionally, individual birds are sighted slightly further north to the Shoalhaven River and Comerong Beach and one bird was sighted at Lake Illawarra in March 2001.

Habitat and ecology

  • In south-eastern Australia Hooded Plovers prefer sandy ocean beaches, especially those that are broad and flat, with a wide wave-wash zone for feeding, much beachcast seaweed, and backed by sparsely vegetated sand-dunes for shelter and nesting. Occasionally Hooded Plovers are found on tidal bays and estuaries, rock platforms and rocky or sand-covered reefs near sandy beaches, and small beaches in lines of cliffs. They regularly use near-coastal saline and freshwater lakes and lagoons, often with saltmarsh.
  • Hooded Plovers forage in sand at all levels of the zone of wave-wash during low and mid-tide or among seaweed at high-tide, and occasionally in dune blowouts after rain. At night they favour the upper zones of beaches for roosting. When on rocks they forage in crevices in the wave-wash or spray zone, avoiding elevated rocky areas and boulder fields. In coastal lagoons they forage in damp or dry substrates and in shallow water, depending on the season and water levels.
  • Hooded Plovers are seen singly, in pairs, family groups or small flocks, with 16 birds at Cudmirrah Beach being the largest group recorded in NSW in recent years. During winter, very few birds are seen in pairs.
  • The Hooded Plover diet consists mainly of marine worms, molluscs, crustaceans, insects, water plants and seeds.
  • In eastern Australia, Hooded Plovers usually breed from August to March on sandy ocean beaches strewn with beachcast seaweed, in a narrow strip between the high-water mark and the base of the fore-dunes. They often nest within 6 m of the fore-dune, mostly within 5 m of the high-water mark, but occasionally among or behind dunes. The nest is a scrape in the sand near debris, making it vulnerable to predators and beach disturbance. Both parents incubate 2-3 eggs for a period of 28 days and share the care of the young. Hooded Plovers display high nest site fidelity and nest solitarily. On mainland Australia, nests may be 2-5 km apart.
  • Hatching success is low, being reported at around 27% of eggs laid and only 0.1 young fledge per pair. However, in the last few years recovery efforts to reduce predation and other threats in conjunction with a monitoring program has revealed an increasing breeding success.
  • Surveys conducted over the past 15 years to determine the total population in NSW have made a maximum count of 64 adults. The estimated population for all of Australia is approximately 5000 birds.

Regional distribution and habitat

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Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
OceanSouth Pacific Ocean Predicted None
OceanTwofold Shelf Known None
Ocean - Other StateSouthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None