Special Protection Area
The diversity of sheltered estuarine habitats in Strangford Lough means that it is the most important coastal site in Northern Ireland for wintering water birds, holding large numbers of geese, ducks and waders. It is world famous as the main arrival site for most of the Canadian population of pale-bellied Brent goose Branta bernicla hrota, which arrive in autumn to spend the winter in our warmer climate. Most of the geese disperse to other sites in Ireland, but substantial flocks can be seen all winter on the mudflats near Newtownards, feeding amid vast concentrations of wintering wildfowl. In summer, the lough supports three species of breeding terns.
A number of SPA bird species roost or feed on areas outside the MPA boundary. These areas are important for the maintenance of these species, sites occurring outside the extent of natural or semi-natural habitat, together with agriculturally improved areas utilised by swans and geese, have not been included within the boundary of the SPA, but their importance must not be underestimated.