SPA description
(information as published 2001)


image: SPA location map 


Foula is the most westerly of the Shetland Islands, which are situated to the north of the Scottish mainland and Orkney. It lies 20 km west of the Shetland mainland and is the most isolated inhabited island in the UK. The island is formed of Old Red Sandstone with a low-lying eastern side rising steeply to a central ridge and terminating on the western coast in sea-cliffs, including the second highest sea-cliff in the UK (The Kame at 317 m a.s.l). The cool oceanic climate has produced extensive peat formation and much of the island is covered in different types of bog vegetation, largely dominated by Hare's-tail Cottongrass Eriophorum vaginatum and Crowberry Empetrum nigrum, although with very little Heather Calluna vulgaris. At higher altitudes the vegetation becomes sub-maritime, whilst near cliff-tops it is highly spray-influenced. The island is important for a wide range of breeding seabirds, with different species nesting in different parts of the island. It is one of only seven known nesting localities in the EU for Leach's Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa. The seabirds feed outside the SPA in nearby waters, as well as more distantly in the North Atlantic.


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;
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea, 1,100 pairs representing at least 2.5% of the breeding population in Great Britain (5 year mean, 1992-1996)
Leach's Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa, 50 pairs representing at least 0.1% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count as at 1976)
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata, 11 pairs representing at least 1.2% of the breeding population in Great Britain (1994 national survey)
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;
Great Skua Catharacta skua, 2,170 pairs representing at least 16.0% of the breeding World population (Count, as at 1992)
Guillemot Uria aalge, 25,125 pairs representing at least 1.1% of the breeding East Atlantic population (Count as at 1987)
Puffin Fratercula arctica, 48,000 pairs representing at least 5.3% of the breeding population (Count, as at 1987)
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, 2,400 pairs representing at least 1.9% of the breeding Northern Europe population (1987)
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 250,000 individual seabirds including: Leach's Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa, Razorbill Alca torda, Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus, Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, Puffin Fratercula arctica, Guillemot Uria aalge, Great Skua Catharacta skua, Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea.



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.