St Kilda SPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

This is a group of remote Scottish islands lying in the North Atlantic about 70 km west of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. The St Kilda group consists of the largest island of Hirta, the nearby Dun and Soay, and Boreray with its flanking pinnacles of Stac Lee and Stac an Armin, together with some smaller rocky islets. ¬†These special islands provide a strategic nesting location for seabirds that feed in the sea to the west of Scotland. The total population of seabirds exceeds 600,000 pairs, making this one of the largest concentrations in the North Atlantic and the largest in the UK. Among the many breeding species are auks, petrels and shearwaters, gulls and large proportions of the national and international populations of Gannets and Puffins. It is also one of only seven known nesting locations in the EU for Leach’s Petrels.¬†

MPA Type

Special Protection Area

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are strictly protected sites designated uner European legislation. They are established to protect rare and vulnerable birds and for regularly occurring migratory species.

Designation date

1 August 1992

Surface Area

289.28 km2 (111.69 mi.2)


68.03 km (42.27 mi.)

  • Razorbill (Alca torda)

    A migratory bird that breeds on coastal cliffs and spends the rest of the year at sea feeding on small fish like sandeel, sprat and herring.

  • Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica)

    Puffins are unmistakable and much loved birds. Sometimes referred to as the clown among seabirds they are one of the world’s favourite birds. With half of the UK population at only a few sites it is a Red List species.

  • Northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

    Almost gull-like, this grey and white seabird is related to the albatrosses. It flies low over the sea on stiff wings.

  • European storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus)

    A small seabird that only comes to land to breed and spends the rest of its life at sea. They nest in burrows below ground on offshore islands.

  • Northern gannet (Morus bassanus)

    Adult gannets are large and bright white seabirds with black wingtips. They feed by flying high and circling before plunging into the sea. They breed in significant numbers at only a few localities.

  • Leach's storm-petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)

    A bird, about the size of a starling, that comes ashore at night to breed on remote islands and spends the rest of it’s life on the open ocean. Few remain in the northern Atlantic.

  • Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

    A small cliff nesting seabird named for it its nasal “ki-ti-waak”” callnotes. The population is declining in some areas

  • Seabird assemblage (Seabird assemblage)

    Important areas where a number of seabird species occur in significant numbers.

  • Common guillemot (Uria aalge)

    One of the most common birds breeding on sheer, crowded cliffs known as ‘seabird cities’. This seabird only comes to land to breed and spends the rest of its life at sea.

  • Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus)

    A seabird with long straight slim wings that flies with a series of rapid stiff-winged flaps followed by long glides on stiff straight wings over the surface of the sea, occasionally banking or ‘shearing’ - hence the name.

  • Great skua (Stercorarius skua)

    A stout, dark, confident bird - the great skua is described as ‘the pirate of the seas’. It harrasses other birds and kills and eats smaller birds like puffins. It is also known to dive bomb any people who approach nesting sites.

  • Marine areas, Sea inlets

Did you know?…

Over 500,000 records of undersea species and habitats have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers

Over 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas

Over 500,000 records of undersea species and habitats have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers