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Location United Kingdom, Scotland
Central coordinates 3o 29.67' West  58o 11.09' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4ii, A4iii, B1i, B1ii, B2, B3, C3, C4
Area 996 ha
Altitude 0 - 130m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds



Site description The IBA comprises sections of cliff-lined coast at Dunnet Head, Duncansby Head to Skirza Head, and Wick to Helmsdale. Patches of species-rich maritime heath occur, giving way to acidic heath further inland. These cliffs support breeding seabirds and waterbirds.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis breeding  1999  1,131 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i, B3, C3  Least Concern 
Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla breeding  1999-2000  49,776 breeding pairs  good  A4i, B1i, C3  Least Concern 
Common Murre Uria aalge breeding  1999-2000  214,399 individuals  good  A4ii, B1ii, C3  Least Concern 
Razorbill Alca torda breeding  1999-2000  19,095 individuals  good  A4ii, B1ii, B3, C3  Least Concern 
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle breeding  1999-2000  1,078 individuals  good  B1ii, B2, C3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - seabirds breeding  1999-2001  198,061 breeding pairs  good  A4iii, C4   
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  1999-2001  54,739 breeding pairs  good  A4iii, C4   

IBA Monitoring

2007 low very unfavourable low
Population
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Energy production and mining oil and gas drilling likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low

Phalacrocorax aristotelis European Shag 2540 1131 breeding pairs 45 unfavourable
Larus argentatus 9550 3506 breeding pairs 37 very unfavourable
Larus marinus Great Black-backed Gull 875 183 breeding pairs 21 very unfavourable
Rissa tridactyla Black-legged Kittiwake 40800 49776 breeding pairs 100 favourable
Uria aalge Common Murre 129850 214399 individuals 100 favourable
Alca torda Razorbill 16567 19095 individuals 100 favourable
Cepphus grylle Black Guillemot 1450 1078 individuals 75 near favourable
Species group - seabirds A4iii 127039 198061 breeding pairs 100 favourable
Species group - waterbirds A4iii 54035 54739 breeding pairs 100 favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  Unknown  Unknown  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Berriedale Cliffs Site of Special Scientific Interest 234 protected area contained by site 234  
Craig Hammel to Sgaps Geo Site of Special Scientific Interest 72 protected area contained by site 72  
Dunbeath to Sgaps Geo Site of Special Scientific Interest 146 protected area contained by site 146  
Dunnet Head Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) 91 protected area overlaps with site 61  
East Caithness Cliffs Birds Directive 443 protected area contained by site 443  
East Caithness Cliffs Habitats Directive 443 protected area contained by site 443  
Holborn Head Site of Special Scientific Interest 133 protected area contained by site 128  
North Caithness Cliffs Birds Directive 557 protected area contained by site 557  
Red Point Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest 166 protected area contained by site 171  
Stroma Site of Special Scientific Interest 140 protected area contained by site 140  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland Heathland  -
Grassland   -
Coastline Sea cliffs and rocky shores  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Caithness Cliffs. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/12/2014

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife