Rathlin Island SPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

As the name suggests, Rathlin Island is an island off the coast of County Antrim, and is the northernmost point of Northern Ireland. It is home to around 145 people. ┬áThis area has several types of protection, a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation. There is also a proposed Marine Conservation Zone. All are types of Marine Protected Areas and are designed to protect different parts of this special place. ┬áThis site aims to protect an area of sea around the island which is used by many of the seabirds which breed around the island’s coast. The area is home to internationally important numbers of the peregrine falcon, as well as a pair of red-billed chough. This site also supports over 20,000 breeding seabirds of national and international importance such as the migratory razorbill, the common guillemot and black-legged kittiwake. Those birds which are more common, and also live here, are the Atlantic puffin, northern fulmar, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, and common gull.

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 February 1999

Surface Area

33.43 km2 (12.91 mi.2)


62.04 km (38.55 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)

    A large and powerful bird of prey which is a swift and agile hunter. Peregrines were at a low point in the 1960s due to human persecution and the impact of pesticides in the food chain but are showing signs of recovery.

  • Marine areas, Sea inlets

Did you know?…

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

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