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Location United Kingdom, Scotland
Central coordinates 3o 23.54' West  58o 31.11' North
IBA criteria A4i, B1i, B3, C2, C3, C6
Area 1,372 ha
Altitude 20 - 100m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Site description A series of lochs spread over a wide area in north-east Caithness, and situated roughly in the triangle formed by Wick, Duncansby Head and Thurso. The lochs are rich to moderately rich in nutrients, and support a diverse aquatic flora. A mire system has developed along the old course of the River Forss. The IBA is important for both breeding and wintering waterbirds. Anser albifrons are the flavirostris subspecies, and Anser anser are from the Icelandic breeding population.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greylag Goose Anser anser winter  2001-2006  3,968 individuals  good  A4i, B1i, C3  Least Concern 
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus winter  2001-2006  341 individuals  good  B1i, B3, C2  Least Concern 
Spotted Crake Porzana porzana breeding  1992  2 breeding pairs  good  C6  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2007 medium unfavourable medium
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Energy production and mining renewable energy likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) moderate to rapid deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Anser albifrons Greater White-fronted Goose 410 200 individuals 49 unfavourable
Anser anser Greylag Goose 4490 3968 individuals 89 near favourable
Cygnus cygnus Whooper Swan 185 341 individuals 100 favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Broubster Leans Site of Special Scientific Interest 172 protected area contained by site 172  
Caithness Lochs Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 1,378 is identical to site 1,372  
Loch Calder Site of Special Scientific Interest 431 protected area contained by site 431  
Loch Heilen Site of Special Scientific Interest 104 protected area contained by site 104  
Loch Of Wester Site of Special Scientific Interest 69 protected area contained by site 69  
Loch Scarmclate Site of Special Scientific Interest 110 protected area contained by site 110  
Loch Watten Site of Special Scientific Interest 433 protected area contained by site 433  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Humid grasslands  -
Wetlands (inland) Blanket bogs; Fens, transition mires and springs; Standing freshwater  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
forestry -
tourism/recreation -

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Caithness Lochs. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016

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