Protected area type: Special Protection Areas
Feature type: 
  • Habitat
  • Marine
  • Antrim
Council: Antrim and Newtownabbey
Guidance and literature: Rathlin SPA Guidance and Literature

Rathlin Island is a large inhabited marine island situated some 4km from the north Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. There are basalt and chalk cliffs, some as high as 100m, as well as several sea stacks on the north and west shores of the island.

The Rathlin Island Special Protection Area (SPA) is classified as an extension to, and renaming of, the previously classified SPA of Rathlin Island Cliffs.

The new site includes the area of coast previously covered by the Rathlin Island Cliffs SPA plus an area of sea around the island. The new site boundary is now entirely coincident with the boundary of the Rathlin Island Special Area of Conservation. The extension is to include an area of sea around the island which is used by many of the seabirds which occur around the island's coast. The south and east shores are more gently sloping with areas of maritime grassland and rocky shore. The length of the coastline is approximately 30km.

Rathlin Island Special Protection Area qualifies under Article 4.1 of EC Directive 79/409 on the Conservation of Wild Birds by supporting nationally important numbers of the Annex 1 species peregrine falcon. In 2008 only one pair of the Annex 1 species chough bred on the site but this still contributes to the maintenance of the chough range in the UK.

Photogragh by Laurie Campbell

The site also qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive by supporting internationally important breeding numbers of the migratory species razorbill, guillemot and kittiwake. Additionally, under Article 4.2, Rathlin SPA regularily supports over 20,000 breeding seabirds. Species include, fulmar, shag, eider, common gull, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, black guillemot, puffin and Manx shearwater.


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