North Wicklow coastal marshes

Year of compilation: 2000

Site description
A coastal wetland complex, extending for 18 km between Greystones and Wicklow in County Wicklow. A shingle barrier extends the length of the site, protecting brackish and freshwater marsh, estuary fen and wet grassland. Two key wetland areas are Broadlough estuary to the south and Kilcoole marshes to the north. These marshes were empoldered in the late 1980s. A mainline railway track runs along the length of the ridge. This is also an important amenity area.

Key biodiversity
An important site for wintering waterfowl and for breeding terns Sterna. Following empolderment, Kilcoole marshes are now a prime feeding area for Branta bernicla. Other species wintering in numbers of national importance are Anser anser (250 birds, 1997), Anas penelope (1,084 birds, 1996), Anas crecca (500 birds, 1996), Melanitta nigra (200 birds, 1996) and Vanellus vanellus (2,800 birds, 1996).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Drainage of the marshes is reducing habitat quality. There is disturbance to wintering birds due to wildfowling while the amenity importance of the area results in some disturbance to the colony of Sterna albifrons and to wintering birds. Proposals for an industrial jetty will lead to habitat loss and fragmentation, with implications for coastal erosion. BirdWatch Ireland and NPW have operated a Little Tern Protection Scheme at Kilcoole since 1985. The site overlaps with a proposed candidate Special Area for Conservation (Coast, Greystones-Wicklow; area not known).

Protected areas
National High International PartialIBA overlaps with Wildfowl Sanctuary (Coast, Greystones-Wicklow; area not known). 237 ha of IBA covered by Special Protection Area (Broad Lough, 237 ha). 150 ha of IBA covered by Special Protection Area (Kilcoole Marshes, 150 ha).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: North Wicklow coastal marshes. Downloaded from on 03/04/2020.