Queensland plovers’ extended breeding season in 2022 ends with a cold start to winter

Plovers have had a breeding boom in southeast Queensland brought on by a warm and wet start to 2022, but a recent cold snap has put an end to that.

Griffith University behavioral ecologist Darryl Jones said the native species, also known as the masked lapwing, took advantage of the optimal conditions.

“All the rains have been really good for the plovers and all those types of birds.

“Normally they would have a group of babies every year, but they seem to take turns.”

Dr Jones said the warm weather and regular rains had led to an increase in insects, which were a major food source for plovers.

“Until recently when it was cold it was perfect for them,” he said.

Plovers nest in open ground so parents can identify threats early.(Provided by: Ryan Claus Gold Coast Wildlife Photography)

The academic said plovers make nests on open ground where they can see threats approaching from afar.

“I’ve seen them inches away from busy roads with passing cars and that doesn’t seem to worry them at all.

“The serious problem for plovers is that they put their eggs in places that are not very convenient for themselves or for people and that is where the problem lies.”

Inconvenient nesting places

Medium-sized shorebirds were most often found in open, grassy areas near water.

They had adapted well to the urban environment and often nested in parks, schools, and sports fields where the grass was regularly mowed.

Masked lapwing bird with yellow face walking on mowed grass.
Masked lapwings are shorebirds that feed on insects and molluscs.(Provided by: Ryan Claus Gold Coast Wildlife Photography)

The birds were known to attack people, but rarely caused injury, unlike magpies which could become aggressive during their breeding season.

The Queensland Department of Environment and Science has advised people to stay away from nests if possible or to move quickly through the area, without running.

They also suggested people wear hats and sunglasses to protect their heads and eyes.

Dr Jones said aggressive adult plovers are simply protecting their young.

A spokesman for Gold Coast Council said lawn mowing contractors check before mowing to avoid birds.

Threat of cold snap for the chicks

Dr Jones said the extended breeding season for plovers ended after the unusually cold start to winter.

“[The cold weather] prevents insects from being abundant,” he said.

Masked lapwing bird with yellow face standing on grass with second bird in background.
Masked lapwings will shoot people down if the bird feels threatened.(Provided by: Ryan Claus Gold Coast Wildlife Photography)

“If there are chicks being raised at the moment, the parents are going to have a hard time finding enough food for them.

“These vulnerable little chicks won’t handle the cold very well, so if there are any little chicks hatching now, they’ll be in trouble.”

Job , updated