After a horror year of breeding in 2014 led to the subspecies being listed as vulnerable, Warrnambool's beaches are proving a stronghold for the nation's highest concentration of Hooded Plovers.
According to BirdLife Australia's biennial count, the beaches between Warrnambool and Yambuk (near Portland) on Victoria's south-west coast had the highest density of birds per kilometre at 2.32. Elsewhere, the average density is just 0.8-1 birds per kilometre.
The stretch of coastline is also home to 117 adult Hooded Plovers, well above any other population in Victoria. A total of 710 were recorded across the state.
There are only 3000 Hooded Plovers globally.
BirdLife Australia Warrnambool branch president Peter Barrand said the recent numbers were "an incredible result".
"There's been so much work put into this," he said.
"It's all due to the team of volunteers and their lifetime passion to preserve and protect the Hooded Plover".
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He said Warrnambool is unique in that people aren't allowed to drive on its beaches, which are ideally suited for the birds.
"They need active beaches where the sea sweeps in and runs up into the sand dunes," he said.
"In other places, illegal vehicles can drive the birds into a corner of the beach, reducing the amount of land available for nesting. If our volunteers find a nest, they'll put flags and ropes to keep people from disturbing it. We also strongly encourage people to walk their dogs on a lead and to always walk in the wet sand if you can.
"We're pretty lucky because generally, people down this way respect that which is good."
He said although the birds are "incredibly resilient" predatory foxes and human activity still pose a threat to the population.
"If the sea level rises or unforeseen weather events continually take out nests, you'll find some pairs that will make four nesting attempts a year and still not succeed," he said.
"You've got foxes cats that predate them and they go in and out of the sand-dunes all along beaches in the south-west. You've also got human threats from people that either don't know or don't care.
"The horse industry was also a grave concern, but it's reasonably well-regulated now so they no longer trample nesting territory."
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