South Uist Machair and Lochs SPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

This site is on the west coast of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, off the north-west coast of Scotland. Here, freshwater changes to saltwater, creating a unique habitat. Saltmarsh, coastal dunes and sandy and rocky shores are also found here.  Corncrakes, terns and waders all call this area home. In fact the number of breeding waders is some of the highest in the world. The site is also important in winter in supporting large numbers of sanderlings on the coast.

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 December 1997

Surface Area

50.18 km2 (19.38 mi.2)


159.33 km (99.00 mi.)

  • Ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula)

    A small, dumpy, short-legged wading bird that breed on beaches around the coast.

  • Greylag goose (Anser anser )

    The largest of the wild gesse in the UK, the greylag is the ancestor of most domestic geese. The native birds and wintering flocks found in Scotland retain the special appeal of truly wild geese.

  • Sanderling (Calidris alba)

    A a small, plump, energetic wading bird.

  • Little tern (Sterna albifrons)

    This bird is one of the smallest of its species. Breeding colonies are located on beaches nearby shallow, sheltered waters which offer good foraging for small fish and invertebrates.

  • Tidal rivers, Estuaries, Mud flats, Sand flats, Lagoons (including saltwork basins)

Did you know?…

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’

An area over 9 times the size of Wales is now in marine protected areas in the UK, but less than 1% is considered by MCS scientists to be well managed

Over 500,000 records on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’