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 and River Fergus Estuaries 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:2019-07
National legal reference of SPA designation329/2019


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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.
BA054Anas acuta    40  40   
BA056Anas clypeata    56  56   
BA052Anas crecca    1558  1558   
BA050Anas penelope    3025  3025   
BA053Anas platyrhynchos    247  247   
BA043Anser anser    88  88   
BA169Arenaria interpres    71  71   
BA062Aythya marila    76  76   
BA046Branta bernicla    135  135   
BA149Calidris alpina    14987  14987   
BA143Calidris canutus    686  686   
BA137Charadrius hiaticula    70  70   
BA038Cygnus cygnus    141  141   
BA130Haematopus ostralegus    363  363   
BA182Larus canus    194  194   
BA179Larus ridibundus    1233  1233   
BA157Limosa lapponica    481  481   
BA156Limosa limosa    706  706   
BA069Mergus serrator    14  14   
BA160Numenius arquata    1231  1231   
BA017Phalacrocorax carbo    148  148   
BA140Pluvialis apricaria    4073  4073   
BA141Pluvialis squatarola    564  564   
BA005Podiceps cristatus    47  47   
BA048Tadorna tadorna    895  895   
BA164Tringa nebularia    33  33   
BA162Tringa totanus    1983  1983   
BA142Vanellus vanellus    13007  13007   
  • 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
Ardea cinerea    25  25             
Cygnus olor    54  54             
Scirpus triqueter                     
  • 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 and River Fergus Estuaries form the largest estuarine complex in Ireland. The site comprises all of the estuarine habitat west from Limerick City and south from Ennis, extending west as far as Killadysert and Foynes on the north and south shores of the Shannon respectively (a distance of some 25 km from east to west). Also included are several areas in the outer Shannon estuary, notably Clonderalaw Bay and Poulnasherry Bay. The site has vast expanses of intertidal flats. The main macro-invertebrate community is a Macoma-Scrobicularia-Nereis community which provides a rich food resource for the wintering birds. Eelgrass (Zostera spp.) is present in places. The intertidal flats are often fringed with salt marsh vegetation, areas which provide important high tide roost sites for the birds. In the innermost parts of the estuaries, the tidal channels or creeks are fringed with species such as Phragmites australis and Scirpus spp. Spartina anglica is frequent in parts.

4.2 Quality and importance

This is the most important coastal wetland site in the country and regularly supports in excess of 50,000 wintering waterfowl. It has internationally important populations of Calidris alpina, Limosa limosa and Tringa totanus. A further 16 species have populations of national importance. The site is particularly significant for Calidris alpina (11% of national total), Pluvialis squatarola (7.5% of total), Vanellus vanellus (6.5% of total), Tringa totanus (6.1% of total) and Tadorna tadorna (6.0% of total). It has Cygnus cygnus, Pluvialis apricaria and Limosa lapponica in significant numbers. The site was formerly frequented by a population of Anser albifrons flavirostris but these have now abandoned the area. The site provides both feeding and roosting areas for the wintering birds and habitat quality for most of the estuarine habitats is good.

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. Falvey, J.P., Costello, M.J. and Dempsey, S. (1997). Survey of Intertidal Biotopes in Estuaries in Ireland. Unpublished report to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, 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. 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, 1994/95-2000/01. BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin. Lysaght, L., Mee, T., Murphy, J. and Tarpey, T. (1994). Birds of Clare and Limerick, 1982-1991. A Ten Year Report. Irish Wildbird Conservancy, Limerick. 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. (1985). The Infauna of the Shannon and Fergus Estuarine Mudflats as a Food Resource for Shorebirds. Unpublished M.Sc. thesis, Trinity College, Dublin. 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. Sheppard, R. (1993). Ireland's Wetland Wealth. IWC, 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 [%]
IE05Islandavanna Wildfowl Sanctuary+1.00
IE05City of Limerick 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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