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?…

Over half a million people have voiced their support for ‘marine protected area’ designation in the UK through our campaigns

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