If you know when the nest was laid, then you will be able to predict the hatching date, but more commonly a complete clutch is found and you will not know when it is due to hatch. Sometimes you might have been fooled by the birds and may have missed finding the nest, and be shocked to see chicks! Below is a guide to help you age the chicks more accurately.

Hoodies incubate their eggs for 28 days, both parents taking equal turn in keeping the eggs at the right temperature. They don’t start incubating until they have laid a complete clutch, so if they are going to lay two eggs in total, they will only sit on the eggs after the second has been laid so the chicks inside develop at the same speed.


They then rear their chicks over 35 days until the chicks are developed enough to fly – in total the nesting cycle takes over 2 months.

Below are the behaviours that indicate that the hoodies might be nesting (i.e. have eggs) or preparing to nest!



Click to images to enlarge

Bowing is a common “aggressive” behaviour birds use when establishing or defending breeding territories. This behaviour might not indicate active nesting (eggs or chicks), but birds bowing (or acting aggressively in general) probably indicates they have established a territory and are likely to nest soon. Bowing can culminate in a territorial dispute with hoodies chasing and swooping one another.

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Leading is the most common indicative behaviour of nesting. Birds will usually run along in front of you at the waters edge, stopping periodically and generally keeping a close eye on you. They will never lead towards their nest and will continue to lead until they are satisfied you are far enough away from nest. This distance varies between birds, but they can lead you a long way past their nest (a hundred metres or more). Many times just one bird will lead you while the other incubates eggs or broods chicks, but if you get close enough to the pair’s nest the incubating/brooding bird will often join in and both birds will lead you.


Birds will often pause when leading to watch you and make sure you are following.


Leading is very common during the nesting phase (i.e. when the birds have eggs), but it can also indicate that a pair has chicks, in this case adults will often lead very “strongly” looking particularly agitated.





When hoodies bob their heads up and down, this means they are feeling threatened and they usually do this when they have an active nest or chicks to worry about. If accompanied by calling, this usually means they are calling to chicks to remain hidden.



False Brooding

When leading, birds may also crouch on sand or sit in footprints, pretending to brood or incubate.

False brooding looks very different to real brooding of chicks (see Brooding on the chicks page).




Usually one “lookout” bird plays it pretty cool while the other incubates, It will call the partner off the nest if a threat gets too close. Watch the upper beach/dunes to see if an incubating bird comes running down off it’s nest.



Scrape building

The birds will often make several scrapes before they choose the one they will lay in. They are trying out a number of locations. You may see a bird sitting low in a scrape and it will kick out sand with its legs back, digging a deeper scrape. It won’t be long until they lay and the scrape they choose will have the most hoodie tracks around it and will look the best formed as they have spent time sitting in it pre-laying.

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You may see a bird with it’s tail in the air, trying to get the attention of it’s partner. If you’re lucky you may even see the pair mate, which involves the male literally climbing on top of the female. Eggs should soon be on their way.

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Hoodies always approach their nests extremely cautiously (often head bobbing, almost incessantly). When they finally decide to approach their eggs, they straddle the eggs, lift their feathers, exposing their brood patch and shuffle down over their eggs with a little “wiggle”. They usually sit quite low on the nest, hiding most of their white belly.

It’s hard enough to see one hoodie at it’s nest a lot of the time, seeing two is even rarer, but sometimes you may see birds “swaping incubation shifts”. Hoodies are very, very cautious during incubation changeovers.

When it’s really hot hoodies need to protect cool their eggs to protect the sensitive embryo’s inside. Sometimes they will “shade” their eggs sitting just above them while panting madly to cool themselves in the harsh heat.

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Additional signs

A hoodie on its own

If you see a hoodie on its own during the breeding season, then it could have a partner on a nest that is out of view!

A group of three

If you see a group of 3 hoodies, seemingly relaxed, this might make you think that this is a flock or because they aren’t being aggressive, that there isn’t a nest. Sometimes the partner of the bird on the nest will sit with the neighbours or with intruders so that they don’t discover the nest. They are keeping a ‘close eye’ on them!

Always in the same spot

One or both birds are consistently in the same area on consecutive visits or you flush them as you pass and they return quickly to where they first were, or are in that spot on your return. Something of importance must be here, perhaps eggs or chicks.


Is MyHoodie Nesting?