SPA description
(information as published 2001)

East Caithness Cliffs

image: SPA location map 


The East Caithness Cliffs SPA is located on the east coast of Caithness in northern Scotland. The site comprises most of the sea-cliff areas between Wick and Helmsdale. The cliffs are formed from Old Red Sandstone and are generally between 30-60 m high, rising to 150 m at Berriedale. Cliff ledges, stacks and geos provide ideal nesting sites for internationally important populations of seabirds, especially gulls and auks. The seabirds nesting on the East Caithness Cliffs feed outside the SPA in inshore waters as well as further away. The cliffs also provide important nesting habitat for Peregrine Falco peregrinus. The cliffs overlook the Moray Firth, an area that provides rich feeding areas for fish-eating seabirds.


Qualifying species

For individual species accounts visit the Species Accounts section

This site qualifies under Article 4.1 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following species listed on Annex I of the Directive:
During the breeding season;
Peregrine Falco peregrinus, 6 pairs representing at least 0.5% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Mid-1990s)
This site also qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following migratory species:
During the breeding season;
Guillemot Uria aalge, 71,509 pairs representing at least 3.2% of the breeding East Atlantic population (Count as at 1986)
Herring Gull Larus argentatus, 9,370 pairs representing at least 1.0% of the breeding Northwestern Europe (breeding) and Iceland/Western Europe - breeding population (Count, as at 1986)
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, 31,930 pairs representing at least 1.0% of the breeding Eastern Atlantic - Breeding population (Count, as at 1986)
Razorbill Alca torda, 9,259 pairs representing at least 1.6% of the breeding population (1986)
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, 2,345 pairs representing at least 1.9% of the breeding Northern Europe population (Count as at 1986)
Assemblage qualification: A seabird assemblage of international importance
The area qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by regularly supporting at least 20,000 seabirds
During the breeding season, the area regularly supports 300,000 individual seabirds including: Puffin Fratercula arctica, Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus, Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, Razorbill Alca torda, Guillemot Uria aalge, Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Herring Gull Larus argentatus, Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis.


Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.
Note that sites selected for waterbird species on the basis of their occurrence in the breeding, passage or winter periods also provide legal protection for these species when they occur at other times of the year.