SPA description
(information as published 2001)

St Kilda

image: SPA location map 


St Kilda is a group of remote Scottish islands lying in the North Atlantic about 70 km west of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. The St Kilda group consists of the largest island of Hirta, the nearby Dun and Soay, and Boreray with its flanking pinnacles of Stac Lee and Stac an Armin together with some smaller rocky islets. The islands are steep, with precipitous cliffs reaching 430 m on Hirta and 380 m on Soay and Boreray. The vegetation is strongly influenced by sea spray and the presence of seabirds and livestock. Inland on Hirta, species-poor acidic grassland and sub-maritime heaths occupy extensive areas. The islands provide a strategic nesting locality for seabirds that feed in the rich waters to the west of Scotland. The total population of seabirds exceeds 600,000 pairs, making this one of the largest concentrations in the North Atlantic and the largest in the UK. Notable among the many breeding species are auks, petrels and shearwaters, gulls and large proportions of the national and international populations of Gannet Morus bassanus and Puffin Fratercula arctica. These species feed outside the SPA, not only in the waters close to the islands, but also further away in the North Atlantic. It is one of only seven known nesting localities in the EU for Leach's Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa.


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;
Leach's Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa, 5,000 pairs representing at least 9.1% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count as at 1987)
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus, 850 pairs representing at least 1.0% of the breeding population in Great Britain
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;
Gannet Morus bassanus, 60,400 pairs representing at least 23.0% of the breeding North Atlantic population (Count, as at 1994)
Great Skua Catharacta skua, 270 pairs representing at least 2.0% of the breeding World population (1997)
Puffin Fratercula arctica, 155,000 pairs representing at least 17.2% of the breeding population (Count, as at 1989)
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 600,000 individual seabirds including: Razorbill Alca torda, Guillemot Uria aalge, Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus, Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, Puffin Fratercula arctica, Great Skua Catharacta skua, Gannet Morus bassanus, Leach's Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa, Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus.



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.