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Species and Habitats

The Moray Firth supports a wide range of species and habitats. It is particularly important for Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), and is famous as the home to one of only two known resident populations of bottlenose dolphins in UK waters. These are protected by a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), as are the sandbanks of the Firth. In addition to the dolphins you may also see harbour porpoise, white-beaked dolphins, minke whales, pilot whales, basking sharks and even killer whales have been spotted as they pass through the area.  The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society cetacean species guide provides detailed information on all of the 85 currently recognised species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. 

The Firth is also home to grey and harbour (common) seals, otters and a myriad of fish and marine invertebrates that dwell under the surface and along it's rocky shores!  To the untrained eye it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a grey seal and a harbour seal.  This identification guide from the Sea Mammal Research Unit shows you how! (363kb PDF) 

In addition the Firth is famous for the large and internationally famous populations of migratory wildfowl and waders which pass through and use its saltmarshes and mudflats at different times of the year. There are several locations for viewing these often spectacular bird movements, which attract many birdwatchers.  Read more....

Another notable visitor is the Osprey, which breeds and feeds around the Firth in the summer. Add to this puffins, eagles and superb coastal seabird colonies, it’s an ornithological treasure!

The varied coast and shoreline provides habitats for a wide range of plant species and the inter-tidal sand and mudflats and saltmarsh are rich in marine invertebrates and plants. The shingle and sand spits and dunes have special plant colonies and provide nesting sites for terns and some waders.

Dolphins, whales, seals, seabirds and fish are what come to mind when we think about the marine life of the Moray Firth.  There are many smaller and often inconspicuous creatures below the surface of the sea, on the rocky reefs, the sandy sea bed or in the open sea. But within the firth's complex ecosystem, each and every plant and animal has a vital role, forming an important link within a complex web of food chains.

With its treasure-trove of natural features, landscapes and wildlife the Moray Firth wonderful and interesting things to see and do in the natural environment.  Wherever you go, please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and be sure to check the Codes of Conduct page which has links to wildlife watching guidance and guidance on how to report disturbance.

Invasive Non-native species
Are those that have been introduced - deliberately or accidentally - by humans. There are many non-native species in Scotland, but only a small number of these cause damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live. These are called invasive non-native species.  Read more...

Click here for more information on the Firths main habitats, species and protected areas.