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Location United Kingdom, Scotland
Central coordinates 1o 37.65' West  59o 31.96' North
IBA criteria A4ii, A4iii, B1ii, B2, B3, C3, C4, C6
Area 559 ha
Altitude 0 - 217m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Site description An island of Old Red Sandstone situated halfway between the Shetland mainland and Orkney, which has been home to a bird observatory since 1947. Maritime grassland occurs around the coasts. The island supports large colonies of breeding seabirds and waterbirds, and is also important as a stop-over site for migrating birds.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis breeding  2001  663 breeding pairs  good  B3  Least Concern 
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea breeding  2001  1,254 breeding pairs  good  C6  Least Concern 
Great Skua Catharacta skua breeding  2001  143 breeding pairs  good  A4ii, B1ii, B3, C3  Least Concern 
Common Murre Uria aalge breeding  1999  39,257 individuals  good  B1ii, C3  Least Concern 
Razorbill Alca torda breeding  2000  3,599 individuals  good  B3  Near Threatened 
Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica breeding  2000  40,000 breeding pairs  good  B1ii, B2, C3  Vulnerable 
A4iii Species group - seabirds breeding  1999-2001  90,576 breeding pairs  good  A4iii, C4   
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  1999-2001  10,210 breeding pairs  good  A4iii, C4   

IBA Monitoring

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

Climate change and severe weather habitat shifting and alteration happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high

Phalacrocorax aristotelis European Shag 1070 663 breeding pairs 62 unfavourable
Sterna paradisaea Arctic Tern 1200 818 breeding pairs 69 unfavourable
Catharacta skua Great Skua 130 143 breeding pairs 100 favourable
Uria aalge Common Murre 37612 39257 individuals 100 favourable
Alca torda Razorbill 3060 3599 individuals 100 favourable
Fratercula arctica Atlantic Puffin 8700 40000 breeding pairs 100 favourable
Species group - waterbirds A4iii 21911 10210 breeding pairs 47 unfavourable
Species group - seabirds A4iii 72430 90576 breeding pairs 100 favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  Unknown  Not assessed  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Fair Isle Site of Special Scientific Interest 592 is identical to site 559  


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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture major

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Fair Isle. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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