Strangford Lough SPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

This site is situated on the east coast of Northern Ireland, and is a large shallow sea lough comprising a wide variety of marine and intertidal habitats. There are two different protected areas here, a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation. Both are designated to protect different habitats and animals found here.  This area regularly supports over 20,000 waterfowl birds over the winter months, these include the internationally important species light-bellied brent geese, knot and redshank. Nationally important species include the bar-tailed godwit, black-tailed godwit, coot, curlew, dunlin, eider, gadwall, great-crested grebe, greylag goose, greenshank, goldeneye, golden plover, grey plover, lapwing, mallard, mute swan, oystercatcher, pintail, red-breasted merganser, ringed plover, shelduck, shoveler, teal, turnstone and wigeon.

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 March 1998

Surface Area

155.69 km2 (60.11 mi.2)


246.17 km (152.96 mi.)

  • Waterfowl assemblage

    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.

  • 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.

  • Light-bellied brent goose (Branta bernicla hrota)

    A small dark goose with small wintering populations in the UK. it is vulnerable as the entire population depends on less than ten wintering sites.

  • 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.

  • Marine areas, Sea inlets
  • Tidal rivers, Estuaries, Mud flats, Sand flats, Lagoons (including saltwork basins)
  • Salt marshes, Salt pastures, Salt steppes

Did you know?…

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

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

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