Share the shore

Threatened shorebirds need space to nest on our beaches, but they face threats from dogs, beachgoers and vehicles.

Did you know illustration with a little tern chick standing opposite an ice cream cone on a blue background. Words above the image 'Did you know?' and words below the image 'A little tern chick weighs less than a scoop of ice cream'.

Each summer endangered pied oystercatchers and little terns, and critically endangered hooded plovers and beach stone curlews, lay their eggs in shallow nests on our beaches.

These birds nest on our beaches from August to March each year.

Large numbers of people head to the shores in summer, which means the birds are likely to be disturbed. So keep an eye out for these beach-nesting birds, their chicks and eggs when you go to the beach.

Here’s 5 small things you can do to help endangered shorebirds raise their chicks on our beaches.

1. Read and respect signage

Photogprah of a white black and red sign saying: Shorebird nesting area no dogs, rangers patrolling - penalties apply

National Parks and Wildlife Service shorebird officers put temporary signs and fences around nesting areas to protect them and so people know where the birds are. But the birds will also venture outside these fences and roam the beach looking for food. Tread carefully when you’re in their neighbourhood, chicks and eggs are well camouflaged in the sand.

2. Keep your dog on a leash

Little tern chick and 2 eggs in a shallow nest on beach

Even if your dog is not interested in the birds, shorebirds will recognise your dog as a predator and leave their nest in fright or attempt to lead the ‘predator’ away. Parent birds are easily disturbed and can abandon nests.

3. Walk and drive on the wet sand

Pied oystercatcher family walking on sand with the sea behind them

It isn’t just dogs these birds will recognise as predators – it’s us humans too!
Walk on the wet sand to avoid nesting birds, who typically nest in the dry sand areas close to the dunes.

4. Take fishing lines and rubbish with you

Little tern in flight

Every year we see birds dying from entanglement in fishing line or ingesting rubbish. Take all fishing line and rubbish with you, and pick up any you see on the beach.

5. Give the birds space – share the shore

Hooded plover illustration

Hooded plover/dotterel (Thinornis cucullatus)

Critically endangered

Affectionately known as ‘hoodies’, there are less than 70 hooded plovers left in NSW. All of them live on the south coast.

To nest they create a small scrape in the sand and typically lay 2 or 3 eggs. They incubate their eggs for around 28 days and share care for their young.


Pied oystercatcher illustration

Pied oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris)


These distinct and striking birds forage on exposed sand, mud flats and rocky reefs at low tide.

Their nests are shallow scrapes in the sand above the high tide mark. They lay 2 or 3 eggs each time they nest.

Illustration of a little tern with 2 chicks

Little tern (Sternula albifrons)


These aerodynamic high-fliers migrate from eastern Asia every year. They arrive on our shores around September to nest in shallow scrapes in the sand over summer.

Although we can’t control the sort of reception they receive overseas, we can certainly show them some hospitality while they’re here and avoid trampling their nests!

Beach stone curlew illustration

Beach stone-curlew (Esacus magnirostris)

Critically endangered

These large waders occur in the northern half of coastal NSW. Pairs nest in shallow scrapes in the sand or gravel and only lay one egg, but will re-lay if their first attempt to breed fails.

Both parents defend the nest and care for their young, which become independent when they’re around 7–12 months old.

Little tern (Sterna albifrons) eggsThe beach is a busy place to lay your eggs and raise chicks.

Shorebird eggs and chicks are expertly camouflaged, so they’re hard to see and easily trampled. They’re impossible to spot from a vehicle that’s driving on the sand.

The nesting season coincides with the summer holidays and crowds of people flock to south coast beaches. This increases the potential to scare parent birds away from their nest or chicks, which puts the chicks at risk.

Exposed chicks:

  • will cook in the hot sun
  • freeze in the cold wind
  • are easily picked off by opportunistic predators like silver gulls, foxes and cats.

When disturbed, young chicks go into hiding, reducing their ability to forage and learn to feed.

Dog facing camera standing on a beach on a lead with human behind

When walking your dog:

  • always leash your dog
  • only walk on designated dog beaches
  • pay attention to signs, fences and keep dogs away from nesting areas

Four wheel drive vehical on beach

When driving your 4-wheel drive:

  • only drive on designated beaches
  • always drive on the hard sand, below the high tide mark
  • avoid driving at high tide.

Watch this video How 4WD users can share the shore with shorebirds to learn more.

Fisherperson standing with fishing rod and bucket looking towards the sea

When you go fishing:

  • clean up and take your tackle and rubbish with you
  • avoid pumping for bait on mudflats or beaches in nesting areas or where shorebirds are present.

Watch this video Saving our shorebirds with Starlo to learn more.

Pied oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris) on beach

When you photograph or observe shorebirds:

  • keep your distance
  • don’t outstay your welcome
  • respect beach closure signs, fences and driving rules
  • be aware of your online impact.

Learn more about Sharing the shore – Pro tips on observing and photographing nesting shorebirds

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