Forth Islands SPA

Status: Designated

Description

Site overview

This site is made up of a number of separate islands or island groups, principally Inchmickery (together with the nearby Cow and Calves) off Edinburgh, Fidra, Lamb and Craigleith together with the Bass Rock off North Berwick, and the much larger Isle of May in the outer part of the Firth. The site also includes additional other small islands. The inner islands are very low lying, whilst those in the outer Firth are higher, steeper and rockier.  The islands support important numbers of breeding seabirds, in particular terns, auks and gulls. The colony of gannets is the largest on the east coast of the UK. 

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 April 1990

Surface Area

98.04 km2 (37.85 mi.2)

Perimeter

107.61 km (66.87 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

    An inshore seabird that is only found in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean. It is seldom seen out of sight of land and nests on particular islands and cliffs in colonies of up to several thousand pairs.

  • Herring gull (Larus argentatus)

    Herring gulls are large, noisy gulls found throughout the year around our coasts and inland around rubbish tips, fields, large reservoirs and lakes, especially during winter. Though they seem to be everywhere, populations continue to decline.

  • Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

    A large, dark waterbird. Often seen standing with its wings spread out to dry. The UK provides internationally important wintering grounds for these birds.

  • Common tern (Sterna hirundo)

    A silvery-grey and white bird sometimes called a ‘sea swallow’ because of it’s long tail.

  • Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea)

    A bird with one of the longest migrations of any bird species. They often travel between the Arctic and Antarctic each year. They breed in coastal colonies, and feed mostly on small fish which they pick from the top few centimetres of the water column.

  • Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis)

    One of Scotland’s four regularly breeding tern species.

  • Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)

    The UK is home to 40% of the world’s population of this medium sized gull and there are serious concerns about declines in parts of its range.

  • Roseate tern (Sterna dougallii)

    One of our rarest seabirds with long tail streamers and a pinkish tinge to its underparts in summer - which gives it its name.

  • Marine areas, Sea inlets

Did you know?…

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

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