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St Kilda - BirdForum Opus

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Photo by murdo27
Gannets at Boreray, St Kilda, July 2008


St Kilda is the most remote island group of the British Isles lying about 70km west of Griminish Point in the Outer Hebrides.

The archipelago consists of four main islands; Hirta also known as St Kilda, Soay, Boreray and Dun, as well as smaller islets and stacks.All are rugged and rocky with high sea-cliffs, in fact the 430m cliffs of the Conachair on Hirta are the highest sea-cliffs in Britain.

The vegetation is mainly sheep-grazed grassland and maritime heath with a surprisingly rich flora but the most important habitat from a birders point of view is the cliffs.

The seabird colonies of St Kilda are among the finest in the North Atlantic with more than 250,000 pairs of birds in total breeding regularly.

Photo by Stewart J.)
Looking north at dawn, March 2007


Notable Species

One of the world's largest gannetries with more than 60,000 pairs is found on Boreray and the neighbouring stacks of Stac an Armin and Stac Lee and Britain's largest Atlantic Puffin colony is on Dun where over 100,000 pairs nest. Britain's largest Northern Fulmar colony is also found on St Kilda and it was from here that the species began its monumental expansion to the rest of the British Isles and in recent years also to elsewhere in northern Europe.

Other breeding seabirds include European Petrel and Leach's Storm-petrel, Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, Great Skua, Common Guillemot and Razorbill.

The St Kilda Wren, numbering a little over 100 pairs, is a larger, paler and greyer version of the mainland Wren found only on Hirta where it is often seen around the old farm buildings. Iceland Gull is regular in small numbers in winter. Black-browed Albatross has occurred off St Kilda.


Birds you can see here include:

Northern Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, European Storm-petrel, Leach's Storm-petrel, European Shag, Northern Gannet, Great Skua, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Atlantic Puffin, St Kilda Wren

Other Wildlife

Grey Seal are now common on the islands and other mammals include a distinct St Kilda subspecies of Wood Mouse. Soay Sheep breed ferally on some of the islands, a primitive local breed left behind when the islands were evacuated in 1930.

Moss Campion, Roseroot and Purple Saxifrage are among the 130 species of flowering plant found on the islands.

Site Information

History and Use

The last islanders left in 1930

Marquess of Bute, a keen ornithologist, bequeathed the islands to The National Trust for Scotland in 1957. [1]

A small area of land on Hirta is leased to the Ministry of Defence as a radar tracking station. [2]

Areas of Interest

To do

Access and Facilities

For many years St Kilda was considered inaccessible but several companies now run regular boat-trips in summer, weather permitting.

Contact Details

The National Trust for Scotland now owns the islands and arranges working holidays for conservation volunteers staying in renovated farm buildings. To join one of these workparties contact The Secretary, St Kilda Club, National Trust for Scotland, 5 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4DU.


  1. St Kilda History
  2. St Kilda Today

External Links

Content and images originally posted by Steve