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Location Ireland, Mid West,Midlands,West
Central coordinates 8o 4.00' West  53o 15.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2, B3, C1, C2, C3, C4, C6
Area 5,788 ha
Altitude 33 - 38m
Year of IBA assessment 2000

BirdWatch Ireland

Site description The flood-plain of the River Shannon, the longest waterway in Ireland with a catchment that drains more than 20% of the country. The area lies between Lough Ree in the north (site 128) and Lough Derg in the south (site 130) and is contiguous with the Little Brosna callows (site 132) and the Suck callows (site 129), both of which are tributaries. This complex is one of the few relatively unmodified flood-plains within the European Union. Beside the river are extensive areas of callow (seasonally flooded, semi-natural wet grassland) which is used for permanent hay or silage or for summer grazing, mainly by cattle. The river is used for coarse angling and leisure-boat cruising. The callows were once flanked by raised bog, which is now largely lost due to mechanical peat-cutting.

Key Biodiversity This site is of international importance for wintering waterfowl and regularly supports over 20,000 wintering birds. The Shannon callows are one of the last strongholds for the globally threatened Crex crex in Ireland and are also of importance for breeding waders, particularly Tringa totanus. Additional wintering species that occur in numbers of national importance, include Cygnus olor (575 birds, 1995), Anas penelope (3,135 birds, 1996), Anas crecca (576 birds, 1995), Aythya fuligula (200 birds, 1995), Vanellus vanellus (15,400 birds, 1995) and Calidris alpina (1,250 birds, 1996).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus winter  1995  901 individuals  good  A4i, B1i, B3, C2  Least Concern 
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus winter  1995  31 individuals  good  B2  Least Concern 
Corncrake Crex crex breeding  1996  54 breeding pairs  good  A1, C1, C2, C6  Least Concern 
Eurasian Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria winter  1995  10,000 individuals  good  B1i, C2  Least Concern 
Common Redshank Tringa totanus breeding  1987  400 breeding pairs  good  B2  Least Concern 
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa winter  1995  1,150 individuals  good  B1i, C3  Near Threatened 
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus passage  1995  5,000 individuals  A4i, B1i, C3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1995  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii, C4   

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high not assessed low

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

Most of site (50-90%) covered (including the most critical parts for important bird species)  No management planning has taken place  Very little or no conservation action taking place  low 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Humid grasslands  40%
Wetlands (inland) Raised bogs; Rivers and streams; Water fringe vegetation  60%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture 40%
nature conservation and research 100%
fisheries/aquaculture 40%
water management 10%

Protection status National None International High5,788 ha of IBA covered by Special Protection Area (River Shannon Callows: Portumna to Athlone, 5,788 ha).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: River Shannon callows: Portumna-Athlone. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

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