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

Rockabill SPA

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

1.7 Site indication and designation / classification dates

Date site classified as SPA:1988-10
National legal reference of SPA designation No information provided


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2.1 Site-centre location [decimal degrees]:


2.2 Area [ha]


2.3 Marine area [%]


2.4 Sitelength [km] (optional):

No information provided

2.5 Administrative region code and name

NUTS level 2 code Region Name
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

No habitat types are reported for the site

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.
BA188Rissa tridactyla    111  111   
BA192Sterna dougallii    611  611   
BA193Sterna hirundo    610  610   
BA194Sterna paradisaea    89  89   
  • 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
Cepphus grylle    34  34             
  • 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 Site consists of two small, low-lying, granitic islets situated c.7 km off the Dublin coast. The islands are separated by a narrow channel though are connected at low spring tides. A lighthouse, manned until 1989, is situated on the main island. The main island, known as the Lighthouse Island, is vegetated by a scrubby sward of Lavatera arborea, with a range of other maritime species such as Matricaria maritima, Silene maritima, Rumex spp., Cochlearia officinalis, Atriplex spp. and Spergularia rupicola. Some exotic plants are present, notably Hebe speciosa and Carpobrotus edulis. The smaller island, known as the Bill, is very exposed and is sparsely vegetated. The site includes all of the rocky shores to the low tide mark.

4.2 Quality and importance

Rockabill is an internationally important tern colony and the most important in Ireland. It supports the largest colony of Sterna dougallii in Ireland (c.88% of national total) and in north-west Europe, plus the largest colony of Sterna hirundo in the country (c.35% of national total) and a significant colony of Sterna paradisaea. Since 1989, the site has been wardened each breeding season. With management for the benefit of the terns, numbers of all three species have steadily increased. Detailed research is carried out, including studies on breeding behaviour, productivity and feeding. A ringing programme has been in operation since the 1980s and this has produced important information on the movement of the birds in an international context. Rockabill also supports a nationally important population of Cepphus grylle and a small colony of Rissa tridactyla. The site is a known location for the observation of bird migration. Owing to its importance, Rockabill is a designated Refuge for Fauna.

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

4.4 Ownership (optional)

No information provided

4.5 Documentation (optional)

Barrington, R.M. (1900). The Migration of Birds as Observed at Irish Lighthouses. London and Dublin. Cabot, D. (1996). Performance of the Roseate Tern population breeding in north-west Europe - Ireland, Britain and France, 1960-94. Biology and Environment, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 96B: 55-68. Casey, S., Moore, N., Ryan, L., Merne, O.J., Coveney, J.A. and del Nevo, A. (1995). The Roseate tern conservation project on Rockabill, Co. Dublin: a six year review 1989-1994. Irish Birds 5: 251-264. Crowe, O., Jones, V. and Newton, S.F. (1999). Rockabill Tern Report 1999. BirdWatch Ireland Conservation Report No. 99/6. Dublin.Crowe, O., Maljkovic, A. and Newton, S.F. (2000). Rockabill Tern Report 2000. BirdWatch Ireland Conservation Report No. 00/2. Dublin.Hannon, C. (1997). The 1995 All-Ireland Tern Survey. BirdWatch Ireland Conservation Report No. 97/1. Hannon, C., Berrow, S.D., and Newton S.F. (1997). The status and distribution of breeding Sandwich Sterna sandvicensis, Roseate S. dougallii, Common S. hirundo, Arctic S. paradisaea and Little Terns S. albifrons in Ireland in 1995. Irish Birds 6: 1-22.Hayes, H., Newton, S.F. and Cormons, G. (2002). Rockabill Roseate Terns Sterna dougallii sighted in west Atlantic colony. Irish Birds 7: 133-134. Hayes, H., Newton, S.F., Lima, P. and Crowe, O. (2000). Rockabill Roseate Terns recaptured in Brazil. Irish Birds 6: 585-586. 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). Hutchinson, C.D. (1975). The Birds of Dublin and Wicklow. Irish Wildbird Conservancy, Dublin. Lloyd, C. (1982). Inventory of Seabird Breeding Colonies in Republic of Ireland. Unpublished report, Forest and Wildlife Service, Dublin.Lloyd, C., Tasker, M.L. and Partridge, K. (1991). The Status of Seabirds in Britain and Ireland. Poyser, London. Madden, B., Merne, O.J. and Newton, S. (1988). East coast Black Guillemot survey 1998. Irish East Coast Bird Report 1999: 82-86.Merne, O.J. (1989). Important Bird Areas in the Republic of Ireland. In: Grimmett, R.F.A. and Jones, T.A. (eds). Important Bird Areas in Europe. ICBP Technical Publication No. 9, Cambridge. Mitchell, P.I., Newton, S., Ratcliffe, N. and Dunn, T. (In prep.). Seabird 2000: The Status of Breeding Seabirds in Britain and Ireland. Newton, S.F. and Crowe, O. (2000). Roseate Terns - the natural connection. Maritime (Ireland/Wales) INTERREG Report no. 2. 60pp. Marine Institute, Dublin. Whilde, A. (1985). The All Ireland Tern Survey 1984. Unpublished report for the Irish Wildbird Conservancy, Dublin.


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5.1 Designation types at national and regional level (optional):

Code Cover [%]

5.2 Relation of the described site with other sites (optional):

Designated at national or regional level:

Type code Site name Type Cover [%]
IE04Rockabill Island Refuge for Fauna=100.00

5.3 Site designation (optional)

No information provided


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6.1 Body(ies) responsible for the site management:

No information provided

6.2 Management Plan(s):

An actual management plan does exist:

No, but in preparation

6.3 Conservation measures (optional)

No information provided



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