Ribble and Alt Estuaries SPA
This site lies on the coast of Lancashire and Merseyside in north-west England. It is made up of two estuaries, of which the Ribble Estuary is by far the larger, together with an extensive area of sandy foreshore along the Sefton Coast. This site is part of the chain of western Special Protection Areas (a type of Marine Protected Area) that fringe the Irish Sea. It is a hugely important area for birds, in fact over winter this area supports more than 301,000 waterfowl. During winter swans, geese, ducks and waders flock here. A large proportion of this site is within the Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve.
MPA TypeSpecial 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 date1 February 1995
Surface Area124.58 km2 (48.10 mi.2)
Perimeter148.59 km (92.33 mi.)
Seabird assemblage (Seabird assemblage)
Important areas where a number of seabird species occur in significant numbers.
Ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
A small, dumpy, short-legged wading bird that breed on beaches around the coast.
Sanderling (Calidris alba)
A a small, plump, energetic wading bird.
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.
Eurasian wigeon (Anas penelope)
Sites in the UK are an important wintering ground for these small ducks.
Bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica)
A long-billed, long-legged wading bird that visits the UK in the winter.
Important areas where a number of waterfowl species occur in significant numbers.
Common tern (Sterna hirundo)
A silvery-grey and white bird sometimes called a ‘sea swallow’ because of it’s long tail.
Common redshank (Tringa totanus)
As this bird’s name suggests, its’ most distinctive features are its’ bright orange-red legs.
Pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)
A medium-sized goose that winters in the UK. Numbers are increasing in England, probably because of better protection at winter roosts.
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
A large wading bird that only breeds in north Scotland. The The Shetland and Orkney breeding population has been slowly increasing.
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.
Red knot (Calidris canutus)
A dumpy, short-legged, stocky wading bird that depends on the rich source of worms and shellfish in estuaries. Large numbers come to the UK in the winter.
Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
A familiar, stocky, black and white wading bird that mostly depends on mussels and cockles.
Dunlin (Calidris alpina alpina)
The commonest small wading bird found around UK shores with a distinctive black belly in the summer.
Black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa islandica)
A large wading bird with a very distinctive long beak.
Black (common) scoter (Melanitta nigra)
The common scoter is seaduck. The UK breeding population of this small diving seaduck has substantially declined and it is now a Red List species.
Grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
A widely distributed shorebird that prefers sandy and muddy estuaries.
Common shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
This is a big, colourful duck, bigger than a mallard but smaller than a goose.
Greater scaup (Aythya marila)
The UK’s rarest breeding duck.
Eurasian curlew (Numenius arquata)
This widely distributed wading bird with its distinctive long, curved bill is threatened by habitat loss.
Northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
This familiar farmland bird has suffered significant declines. It is also known as a ‘peewit’ after it’s call and get’s the name lapwing from its wavering flight.
Northern pintail (Anas acuta)
This duck is slightly bigger than a mallard and has a very distinctive long tail that tapers to a point.
Eurasian teal (Anas crecca)
Little dabbling ducks - with a significant percentage of the wintering population in the UK.
Black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus)
For much of the year this small gull actually has a white head, only developing its dark head in the summer. It is very widespread in the UK and is found commonly almost anywhere inland.
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
A medium sized wading bird that breeds in a very few lowland sites in eastern England where its numbers appear to be dropping. Males develop a very impressive ruff in the summer.
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’
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