SPA description
(information as published 2001)

Rathlin Island



Rathlin Island is a large inhabited island located some 4 km off the north coast of County Antrim in Northern Ireland. It has basalt and chalk cliffs, some as high as 100 m, as well as several sea-stacks on the north and west shores of the island, many of which are important for seabirds. The south and east shores are more gently sloping with areas of maritime grassland and rocky shore. The length of the coastline is approximately 30 km. Inland there are wetlands, a limited amount of maritime heath and a mosaic of grazing of varying intensity. The island supports an important breeding assemblage of seabirds, especially including auk and gull species. Large numbers of Peregrine Falco peregrinus also nest on the cliffs. Although the SPA supports a substantial marine area, the seabirds also feed outside the SPA in surrounding marine areas.


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 1.6% of the breeding population in Ireland (5 year mean, 1992-1996)


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, 28,064 pairs representing at least 1.2% of the breeding East Atlantic population (Seafarer Count 1985)
Razorbill Alca torda, 5,978 pairs representing at least 1.0% of the breeding population


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 66,000 individual seabirds including: Puffin Fratercula arctica, Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Herring Gull Larus argentatus, Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus, Common Gull Larus canus, Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, Razorbill Alca torda, Guillemot Uria aalge.


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.

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