Database release:

For Special Protection Areas (SPA),
Proposed Sites for Community Importance (pSCI),
Sites of Community Importance (SCI) and
for Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)



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1.1 Type


1.2 Site code


1.3 Site name

River Shannon Callows SAC

1.4 First Compilation date


1.5 Update date


1.6 Respondent:

Name/Organisation:National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Date site proposed as SCI:2002-01
Date site confirmed as SCI: No data
Date site designated as SAC: No data
National legal reference of SAC designation: No data


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2.1 Site-centre location [decimal degrees]:


2.2 Area [ha]


2.3 Marine area [%]


2.4 Sitelength [km]:


2.5 Administrative region code and name

NUTS level 2 code Region Name
IE01Border, Midland and Western
IE01Border, Midland and Western
IE02Southern and Eastern

2.6 Biogeographical Region(s)

Atlantic (0.00 %)


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3.1 Habitat types present on the site and assessment for them

Annex I Habitat types Site assessment
Code PF NP Cover [ha] Cave [number] Data quality A|B|C|D A|B|C
      RepresentativityRelative SurfaceConservationGlobal
6410  info      117.13  0.00 
6510  info      117.13  0.00 
8240  info      58.56  0.00 
91E0  info      58.56  0.00 
  • PF: for the habitat types that can have a non-priority as well as a priority form (6210, 7130, 9430) enter "X" in the column PF to indicate the priority form.
  • NP: in case that a habitat type no longer exists in the site enter: x (optional)
  • Cover: decimal values can be entered
  • Caves: for habitat types 8310, 8330 (caves) enter the number of caves if estimated surface is not available.
  • Data quality: G = 'Good' (e.g. based on surveys); M = 'Moderate' (e.g. based on partial data with some extrapolation); P = 'Poor' (e.g. rough estimation)

3.2 Species referred to in Article 4 of Directive 2009/147/EC and listed in Annex II of Directive 92/43/EEC and site evaluation for them

Species Population in the site Site assessment
G Code Scientific Name S NP T Size Unit Cat. D.qual. A|B|C|D A|B|C
      MinMax  Pop.Con.Iso.Glo.
BA056Anas clypeata    12  12           
BA052Anas crecca    288  288     
BA050Anas penelope    2830  2830     
BA395Anser albifrons flavirostris    21  21     
BA149Calidris alpina    675  675     
BA082Circus cyaneus       
BA082Circus cyaneus       
BA113Coturnix coturnix    15     
BA122Crex crex    66  66     
BA037Cygnus columbianus bewickii    22  22     
BA038Cygnus cygnus    627  627     
BA098Falco columbarius       
BA153Gallinago gallinago    323  323     
BA156Limosa limosa       
BA156Limosa limosa    664  664     
BA290Locustella naevia    10  10     
M1355Lutra lutra           
BA160Numenius arquata    45  45     
BA160Numenius arquata    129  129     
BA140Pluvialis apricaria    7265  7265     
BA162Tringa totanus    308  308     
BA142Vanellus vanellus    11126  11126     
BA142Vanellus vanellus    289  289     
  • Group: A = Amphibians, B = Birds, F = Fish, I = Invertebrates, M = Mammals, P = Plants, R = Reptiles
  • S: in case that the data on species are sensitive and therefore have to be blocked for any public access enter: yes
  • NP: in case that a species is no longer present in the site enter: x (optional)
  • Type: p = permanent, r = reproducing, c = concentration, w = wintering (for plant and non-migratory species use permanent)
  • Unit: i = individuals, p = pairs or other units according to the Standard list of population units and codes in accordance with Article 12 and 17 reporting (see reference portal)
  • Abundance categories (Cat.): C = common, R = rare, V = very rare, P = present - to fill if data are deficient (DD) or in addition to population size information
  • Data quality: G = 'Good' (e.g. based on surveys); M = 'Moderate' (e.g. based on partial data with some extrapolation); P = 'Poor' (e.g. rough estimation); VP = 'Very poor' (use this category only, if not even a rough estimation of the population size can be made, in this case the fields for population size can remain empty, but the field "Abundance categories" has to be filled in)

3.3 Other important species of flora and fauna (optional)


Population in the site


Group CODE Scientific Name S NP Size Unit Cat. Species Annex Other categories
     MinMax C|R|V|PIVVABCD
Cygnus olor    537  537               
Groenlandia densa                   
Hordeum secalinum                   
Lathyrus palustris                   
Lepus timidus hibernicus                   
Lepus timidus hibernicus                   
Lepus timidus hibernicus                   
Orchis morio                   
Rana temporaria                   
Rana temporaria                   
  • Group: A = Amphibians, B = Birds, F = Fish, Fu = Fungi, I = Invertebrates, L = Lichens, M = Mammals, P = Plants, R = Reptiles
  • CODE: for Birds, Annex IV and V species the code as provided in the reference portal should be used in addition to the scientific name
  • S: in case that the data on species are sensitive and therefore have to be blocked for any public access enter: yes
  • NP: in case that a species is no longer present in the site enter: x (optional)
  • Unit: i = individuals, p = pairs or other units according to the standard list of population units and codes in accordance with Article 12 and 17 reporting, (see reference portal)
  • Cat.: Abundance categories: C = common, R = rare, V = very rare, P = present
  • Motivation categories: IV, V: Annex Species (Habitats Directive), A: National Red List data; B: Endemics; C: International Conventions; D: other reasons


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4.1 General site character

Habitat class % Cover

Total Habitat Cover


Other Site Characteristics

The River Shannon is the largest river in Ireland, and its central route drains a large percentage of the whole country. It has proved too powerful to be tamed by drainage schemes in the past, and this central section is still free to flood the surrounding lowlands in winter. It is a well-used agricultural resource of low intensity during the summer. This floodplain functions as a semi-natural meadow/marsh habitat (used for grazing or hay-making). There is an extensive system of surface drains. The site is linear, running for about 50 km, at an average width of about 0.75 km (but reaching 1.5 km in several places). For about half its length it borders raised bogs, most of which are in the process of large-scale peat harvesting. Esker ridges lie adjacent to the callows in some places. There are areas of both relict and active levees. A weir at Meelick divides the flooding regime. Ecological diversity is caused and maintained by multiple ownership, variation in the flooding regime due to the topography of the callows, hundreds of kilometres of drainage ditches, differences in the amount of peat and alluvium in the soils and by the extensive nature of the site. The main habitat on the site is humid grassland managed for hay and pasture and these areas have the same management regime as the lowland hay meadows and Molinia meadows.

4.2 Quality and importance

This site is the largest area of semi-natural floodplain grassland in Ireland and Britain and has very many features of a natural ecosystem. It has been placed among the most 'natural' floodplains in western Europe. It is subject to regular and prolonged annual winter flooding. Wooded alluvial islands which flood regularly occur at one location. A number of Red Data Book and scarce plant species occur on the site, the scarce species including Leucojum aestivum, Sium latifolium, Botrychium lunaria and Lemna gibba. In addition, the site contains a very wide variety of native plant species. A small area of limestone pavement at Clorhane is of particular importance as it is the only example of this habitat in the region. Along with its tributary the Little Brosna (designated separately) this is one of the great waterfowl sites in Ireland, with huge numbers of a wide range of species occurring in winter, with a mean peak of 34,985 waterbirds recorded from 1995/96 to 1999/00. This is the third highest for an inland site in Ireland. The highest is the Little Brosna, which is an extension to the Middle Shannon Callows. Only three estuarine sites are higher. In 1996/97 one species was of International Importance (Whooper Swan) and six species were of National Importance. A small flock of Anser albifrons flavirostris regularly use a few locations on the site and these are part of the Internationally Important flocks of both the Little Brosna and the River Suck. It is one of very few significant inland sites in Britain or Ireland for Calidris alpina. It is the top site in the country for Cygnus olor and close to that for Cygnus cygnus, Vanellus vanellus and Pluvialis apricaria. The E.U. Birds Directive Annex I species, Circus cyaneus, regularly uses the site for hunting in autumn and winter. Perhaps even more important are its nesting Crex crex, Coturnix coturnix and breeding waders. In 1987, 1204 pairs of breeding waders were recorded (including adjacent parts of the Shannon), mainly Vanellus vanellus, Gallinago gallinago, Numenius arquata and Tringa totanus. Crex crex has one of its last strongholds here with 70 and 66 calling birds present in 1998 and 1999 respectively. The Shannon Callows is one of the few areas in Ireland where Coturnix coturnix breeds. Numbers vary between years but up to 14 males have been heard. There are high populations of ground-nesting passerines, such as Alauda arvensis, Anthus pratensis, Locustella naevia and Emberiza schoeniclus on the site. The River Shannon Callows is a breeding site for two Red Data Book waterbird species: Limosa limosa islandica and Anas clypeata. The Red Data Book species Anas acuta has also bred on the site though its current status is unknown. The E.U. Birds Directive Annex I species Falco columbarius, bred on the site in 1996. Large rivers flowing unfettered through lowland floodplains are now rare anywhere in Europe. This river, and its associated habitats, are of the highest conservation importance.

4.3 Threats, pressures and activities with impacts on the site

The most important impacts and activities with high effect on the site

Negative Impacts
RankThreats and pressures [code]Pollution (optional) [code]inside/outside [i|o|b]
Positive Impacts
RankActivities, management [code]Pollution (optional) [code]inside/outside [i|o|b]

Rank: H = high, M = medium, L = low
Pollution: N = Nitrogen input, P = Phosphor/Phosphate input, A = Acid input/acidification,
T = toxic inorganic chemicals, O = toxic organic chemicals, X = Mixed pollutions
i = inside, o = outside, b = both

4.5 Documentation

Bernaldez, F.G. (1991). Vegetation of the Clonmacnoise and Little Brosna Sites, Central Ireland. Internal report to the FAEWA EU-STEP project. Borggreve, C. and de Groot, C. (1996). Vegetation of the Shannon Callows at Bullock Island, Ireland. MSc thesis, Wageningen Agricultural University, Netherlands. Bron, W.A. and de Heer, M. (1996). Synecology of the Shannon Callows. MSc thesis, Wageningen Agricultural University, Netherlands. Cabot, D. (1999). Ireland. A Natural History. Harper Collins, New Naturalist Series. Casey, C. (1993). Corncrake Fieldwork on the Shannon Callows, (1993). BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. Casey, C. (1996). Corncrakes increase again. Wings 3: 12-13. Casey, C. (1997). Corncrakes survive wet summer. Wings 7: 13. Colhoun, K. (2001) I-WeBS Report 1998-99. BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. Cranswick, P.A., Bowler, J.M., Einarsson, O., Gardarsson, A., McElwaine, J.G., Merne, O.J., Rees, E.C. and Wells, J.H. (1996). Numbers of Whooper Swans Cygnus cygnus in Iceland, Ireland, and Britain in January 1995: results of the international Whooper Swan census. Wildfowl 47: 23-36. Coveney, J., Merne, O.J., Wilson, H.J., Allen, D. and Thomas, G. (1993). A Conservation Strategy for Birds in Ireland. Unpublished report. Irish Wildbird Conservancy. Curtis, T.G.F. and McGough, H.N. (1988). The Irish Red Data Book. I Vascular Plants. Stationery office, Dublin. Curtis, T.G.F. and Neff, J. (1997). Provisional Scarce Plants List. Unpublished report, National Parks and Wildlife, Dublin. Delany, S. (1997). I-WeBS Reports, 1995-96. BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. Delany, S. (1998). I-WeBS Reports 1996-97. BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. Derwin, J. (1997). Corncrake Fieldworking North Donegal 1997. Internal report to IWC BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. Fox, A.D., Norriss, D.W., Stroud, D.A. and Wilson, H.J. (1994). Greenland White-fronted Geese in Ireland and Britain 1982/83 - 1993/94. Greenland White-fronted Goose Study Research Report, no. 8. The Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service. Fuller, R.M. (1987). The changing extent and conservation status of lowland grasslands in England and Wales: a review of grassland surveys, 1930 - 1984. Biological Conservation 40: 281-300. Heery, S. (1991). The plant communities of the grazed and mown graslands of River Shannon Callows. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 91B(1): 1-19. Heery, S. (1993). The Shannon Floodlands - a Natural History of the Shannon Callows. Tir Eolas, Kinvara. Heery, S. (1994). Corncrake Map of Options Project - North Donegal, Shannon Callows and Moy Valley. Unpublished report to Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and The National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dublin. Heery, S. (1996). Birds in Central Ireland. Mid Shannon Bird Report, 1992-1995. BirdWatch Ireland. Heery, S. (2000). Birds in Central Ireland. Mid-Shannon Bird Report 1996-1999. BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. Heery, S. and Cooney, T. (1997). Part Re-survey Breeding Waders on the River Shannon/Little Brosna Callows. Unpublished report to Dúchas - The Heritage Service and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Belfast. Heery, S. (1998). Rare and Scarce Plants on the Shannon Callows. Unpublished report to Dúchas, The Heritage Service, Dublin. Hooijer, A. (1996). Floodplain Hydrology. An Ecologically Oriented Study of the Shannon Callows. PhD thesis, Free University, Amsterdam. Hutchinson, C. (1979). Ireland's Wetlands and their Birds. IWC, Dublin. Hunt, J., Derwin, J., Coveney, J. and Newton, S. (2000). Republic of Ireland. Pp. 365-416 in Heath, M.F. and Evans, M.I. (eds.). Important Bird Areas in Europe: Priority Sites for Conservation 1: Northern Europe. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No. 8). Irish Wetland Birds Survey (I-WeBS) Database, 1994/95-2000/01. BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. McDevitt, A.M. (1998 and 1999). Corncrake Fieldwork on the Shannon Callows, 1998 and 1999. BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. Mayes, E. and Stowe, T. (1989). The status and distribution of the Corncrake in Ireland, 1988. Irish Birds 4: 1-12. Nairn, R.G.W., Heery, S. and Herbert, I.J. (1988). Shannon Callows 1987: Report of a Survey of Breeding Birds and Plant Communities in the River Shannon Floodplain. Unpublished report to the Irish Wildbird Conservancy, Dublin. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (1991). Corncrakes and Grassland Management in Britain and Ireland. R.S.P.B., Sandy. Salmon, D.G. and Black, J.M. (1986). The January Whooper Swan census in Britain, Iceland and Ireland. Wildfowl 37: 172-174. Sheppard, R. (1991). The Irish Wigeon population - distribution and changes. In: Harradine, J. Wigeon in Ireland, 17-29. British Association for Shooting and conservation, Rossett. Sheppard, R. (1993). Ireland's Wetland Wealth. IWC, Dublin. Sheppard, R. and Green, R.E. (1994). Status of the Corncrake in Ireland in 1993. Irish Birds 5: 125-138. Smiddy, P. and O'Sullivan, O. (1995). Forty-second Irish Bird Report 1994. Irish Birds 5: 325-351. Smiddy, P. and O'Sullivan, O. (1996). Forty-third Irish Bird Report, 1995. Irish Birds 5: 445 -474. Tubridy, M. (1984) (ed.). Creation and Management of a Heritage Zone at Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly, Ireland. Final Report, EEC Contract No. 6611/12. Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College. Dublin. Tubridy, M. (1987) (ed.). The Heritage of Clonmacnoise. Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College. Dublin. Tubridy, M. (1988). Clonmacnoise Heritage Zone project: a Portfolio of Management Plans. Final report to EC, project no. 6611/85/08/1. Tucker, G.M. and Heath, M.F. (1994). Birds in Europe: Their Conservation Status. Birdlife Conservation Series no. 3. Birdlife International, Cambridge. Waters, R.J. and Cranswick, P.A., Evans, J.and Pollitt, M.S. (1996). The Wetland Bird Survey 1994-1995: Wildfowl and Wader Counts. BTO/WWT/RSPB/NCC, Slimbridge. White, J. and Doyle, G. (1982). The vegetation of Ireland. A catalogue raisonne. Journal of Life Sciences, Royal Dublin Society 3: 289-368.


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6.2 Management Plan(s):

An actual management plan does exist:

No, but in preparation



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