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

Lough Swilly 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:1995-11
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 [%]

No information provided

2.4 Sitelength [km] (optional):

No information provided

2.5 Administrative region code and name

NUTS level 2 code Region Name
IE01Border, Midland and Western

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.
BA056Anas clypeata    60  60   
BA052Anas crecca    1581  1581   
BA050Anas penelope    1580  1580   
BA053Anas platyrhynchos    1169  1169   
BA395Anser albifrons flavirostris    847  847   
BA043Anser anser    1218  1218   
BA028Ardea cinerea    57  57   
BA169Arenaria interpres    73  73   
BA061Aythya fuligula    282  282   
BA062Aythya marila    103  103   
BA046Branta bernicla    152  152   
BA067Bucephala clangula    170  170   
BA149Calidris alpina    7285  7285   
BA143Calidris canutus    303  303   
BA137Charadrius hiaticula    81  81   
BA038Cygnus cygnus    1673  1673   
BA125Fulica atra    514  514   
BA003Gavia immer    19  19   
BA130Haematopus ostralegus    1595  1595   
BA182Larus canus    1523  1523   
BA179Larus ridibundus    925  925   
BA179Larus ridibundus    800  800   
BA157Limosa lapponica    139  139   
BA156Limosa limosa    78  78   
BA069Mergus serrator    127  127   
BA160Numenius arquata    1720  1720   
BA017Phalacrocorax carbo    104  104   
BA140Pluvialis apricaria    749  749   
BA005Podiceps cristatus    284  284   
BA193Sterna hirundo    89  89   
BA191Sterna sandvicensis    222  222   
BA048Tadorna tadorna    772  772   
BA164Tringa nebularia    48  48   
BA162Tringa totanus    1404  1404   
BA142Vanellus vanellus    1408  1408   
  • 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
Chara canescens                     
Cygnus olor    265  265             
Larus argentatus    71  71             
Lepus timidus hibernicus                     
Lepus timidus hibernicus                     
Lepus timidus hibernicus                     
Tachybaptus ruficollis    38  38             
  • 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

Lough Swilly is a long sea inlet cut through a variety of metamorphic rocks, situated on the west side of the Inishowen Peninsula in north Co. Donegal. The SPA comprises the inner part of Lough Swilly from just east of Letterkenny northwards to Killygarvan (c. 2 km north of Rathmullan) on the west side and to c. 2 km south of Buncrana on the east side; it includes the adjacent Inch Lough. Also forming part of the site is a series of improved pasture and arable fields on the south side of Lough Swilly between Farsetmore and Inch Levels - these are of importance to geese and swans. It includes sections of the estuaries of the River Swilly, the River Leannan and the Isle Burn and the predominant habitat is a series of extensive sand and mud flats which are exposed at low tide.

4.2 Quality and importance

Lough Swilly is a fine example of a large, natural sea inlet which is estuarine in character. The site supports an excellent diversity of wintering waterfowl for which it is the most important site in the north-west. It is of international importance because total numbers easily exceed 20,000 birds but it also has internationally important populations of Cygnus cygnus, Anser anser and Anser albifrons flavirostris. The Anser anser population represents over 27% of the All-Ireland total, whilst the flock of Anser albifrons flavirostris is the largest in the country outside of the Wexford Slobs. In addition, there are at least 18 species which occur in numbers of national importance. Of particular note are the populations of Tadorna tadorna (5.3% of the All - Ireland total), Calidris alpina (6.1% of total) and Tringa totanus (4.8% of total). The site also supports regionally important numbers of Pluvialis apricaria and Limosa lapponica. The wintering birds of Lough Swilly have been well-monitored since the early 1980s.

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)

Colhoun, K. (2001). I-WeBS Report 1998-99. BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. Curtis, T.G.F. and Sheehy Skeffington, M.J. (1998). The salt marshes of Ireland: an inventory and account of their geographical variation. Biology and Environment, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 98B: 87-104. Crowe, O. (2005). Ireland's Wetlands and their Waterbirds: Status and Distribution. BirdWatch Ireland, Newcastle, Co. Wicklow.Crowe, O., Austin, G.A., Colhoun, K., Cranswick, P.A., Kershaw, M. and Musgrove, A.J. (2008). Estimates and trends of waterbird numbers wintering in Ireland 1994/95 to 2003/04. Bird Study 55: 66-77.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. Greenland White-fronted Goose Study, Wales and National Parks and Wildlife Service, 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, 1994/95-2006/07. BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. McElwaine, J.G., Wells, J.H. and Bowler, J.M. (1995). Winter movements of Whooper Swans visiting Ireland: preliminary results. Irish Birds 5: 265-278. Crowe, O. (2005). Ireland's Wetlands and their Waterbirds: Status and Distribution. BirdWatch Ireland, Newcastle, Co. Wicklow.McGarrigle, M.L., Bowman, J.J., Clabby, K.J., Lucey, J., Cunningham, P., MacCarthaigh, M., Keegan, M., Cantrell, B., Lehane, M., Clenaghan, C. and Toner P.F. (2002). Water Quality in Ireland 1998-2000. Environmental Protection Agency, Wexford. 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.F., Ratcliffe, N. and Dunn, T.E. (2004). Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland. Poyser, London. Robinson, J.A., Colhoun, K., Gudmundsson, G.A., Boertmann, D., Merne, O.J., O'Briain, M., Portig, A.A., Mackie, K. and Boyd, H. (2004). Light-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla hrota (East Canadian High Arctic Population) in Canada, Ireland, Iceland, France, Greenland, Scotland, Wales, England, the Channel Islands and Spain 1960/61 - 1999/2000. Waterbird Review Series, The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust/Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Slimbridge.Robinson, J.A, Colhoun, K., McElwaine, J.G. and Rees, E.C. (2004). Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus (Iceland population) in Britain and Ireland 1960/61 - 1999/2000. Waterbird Review Series, The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust/Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Slimbridge.Sheppard, R. (1993). Ireland's Wetland Wealth. IWC, Dublin.Sheppard, R. (2002). The wintering waterbirds of Lough Swilly, County Donegal. Irish Birds 7: 65-78.


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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 [%]
IE05Blanket Nook Wildfowl Sanctuary+1.00

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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