Ireland is a special place for wild birds. We are at the end of major flyways of waterfowl migrating south for the winter from North America, Greenland, Iceland and the Arctic. In spring and summer, Ireland provides important breeding grounds for species from the continent of Europe or Africa. Our long coastlines provide safe breeding and wintering grounds for large numbers of seabirds. In addition we have resident species which are scarce or rare in other parts of Europe.
Because birds migrate long distances, it is not sufficient to protect them over just part of their range, so the EU Birds Directive provides for a network of sites in all Member States to protect birds at their breeding, feeding, roosting and wintering areas. It identifies species which are rare, in danger of extinction or vulnerable to changes in habitat and which need protection.
In Ireland, we have 20 of these species regularly occurring. They include Bewick's and Whooper Swan, Greenland White-Fronted and Barnacle Geese, Corncrake, Golden Plover, Bar-Tailed Godwit, five species of tern, birds of prey including Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin as well as the Kingfisher and Chough.
Specific proposals to designate Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in order to safeguard certain habitats pursuant to EU Directive requirements were recently advertised in the local press and on local radio. These proposals are intended to safeguard the habitat of these selected sites.
The EU Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) requires designation of SPAs for:
121 SPAs have been designated since 1985. 25 other sites enjoy legal protection and will shortly by designated as SPAs. However, further designations are required pursuant to the Birds Directive. The Minister will be publishing his proposals for the designation of additional sites on an on-going basis in Autumn 2007 and Spring 2008. It should be noted that many existing and future SPAs overlap with SACs. The Irish SPAs join a total of around 3,000 sites across the European Union.
Click here to view boundary data for SPA sites on our map-viewer