SPA description
(information as published 2001)

Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet

image: SPA location map 


The Dornoch Firth is located in north-eastern Scotland and is one of the two northernmost estuaries in the Moray Basin ecosystem. The Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet SPA is one of the best examples in northwest Europe of a large complex estuary which has been relatively unaffected by industrial development, whilst Loch Fleet itself is an example of a shallow, bar-built estuary. Extensive sand-flats and mud-flats are backed by saltmarsh and sand dunes with transitions to dune heath and Alder Alnus glutinosa woodland. The tidal flats support internationally important numbers of waterbirds on migration and in winter, and are the most northerly and substantial extent of intertidal habitat for wintering waterbirds in the UK, as well as Europe. The Firth is also of importance as a feeding area for locally breeding Osprey Pandion haliaetus.

Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet SPA forms an integral ecological component of Moray Basin Firths and Bays of which it forms the most northerly component area.

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;
Osprey Pandion haliaetus, 10 pairs representing at least 10.0% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count as at early 1990's)
Over winter;
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, 1,300 individuals representing at least 2.5% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
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:
Over winter;
Greylag Goose Anser anser, 2,079 individuals representing at least 2.1% of the wintering Iceland/UK/Ireland population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
Wigeon Anas penelope, 15,304 individuals representing at least 1.2% of the wintering Western Siberia/Northwestern/Northeastern Europe population (5 year peak mean 1989/90-1993/4)
Assemblage qualification: A wetland of international importance.
The area qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by regularly supporting at least 20,000 waterfowl
Over winter, the area regularly supports 34,837 individual waterfowl (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6) including: Curlew Numenius arquata, Dunlin Calidris alpina alpina, Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, Teal Anas crecca, Wigeon Anas penelope, Greylag Goose Anser anser, Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica.



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.