Red-capped Plover - Born to Run!

The small (15cm) Red-capped Plover is one of our more common shorebirds that nests along the edges of the Wilson Inlet. It can be quite difficult to spot because of its countershading, being a predominantly sandy colour above and white below. The male has a characteristic orange cap and dark eye-stripe, whilst the female has duller head colouring. They can be seen searching for invertebrates on the water’s edge or scurrying around on the sand bar pursuing a mate, else being chased or chasing away rivals.

The plovers generally nest in early summer, usually laying 2-eggs and after 4-weeks the tiny downy chicks emerge. Almost immediately they are able to hoist themselves onto their stilt-like legs, looking like a ball of fluff perched on two bent pipe-cleaners. It is at this stage they are known as “Runners” and their running prowess is essential for avoiding predators and in searching for food. If the nest or chick is approached, the adult bird will often feign injury to distract the intruder, in which case the human intruder should retreat rather than risk damaging eggs or causing undue distress. The chick responds to its parent’s alarm call and will either “do a runner” or crouch down and use its cryptic colouring to avoid detection.

The Plovers nest on the northeast shore of the Prawn Rock Island and a fence has been erected to prevent undue disturbance to these iconic birds. They may also nest high up on the ocean beach, especially if their usual sites are inundated with water, as is the case this year.

 

Male Red-capped Plover
Male Red-capped Plover
"Runner" with Male red-capped Plover
"Runner" with Male red-capped Plover