City employs sheep to help birds lay eggs

Enter around 70 sheep and goats, brought in by the city authorities in December 2017 to help prepare the area for the new breeding season of birds, including terns, gulls and plovers. www.um.warszawa.pl

The centre of a city of over 1.7 million people might not seem like a place for sheep. But a small island in the Vistula river has become the unlikely home of a flock of sheep and goats – brought in to act as “natural lawnmowers”.

The sheep are part of broader efforts to foster biological diversity on the Vistula. The “Projecting the habitants of priority bird species of the Vistula Valley under the circumstances of intensive pressure of Warsaw agglomeration” project seeks to restore breeding colonies of waders, gulls and terns. 

The island was created in 2015 to encourage the birds to build nests – small depressions in the sand. But soon vegetation on the island started to get out of hand, growing high and covering the sand, making it difficult for the birds to breed.  

Enter around 70 sheep and goats, brought in by the city authorities in December 2017 to help prepare the area for the new breeding season of birds, including terns, gulls and plovers. 

The flock of Polish heath sheep and Polish merinos came from near Warsaw, where it also grazed by the Vistula. These “natural lawnmowers” can tame growth on areas difficult to reach with lawnmowers.

Coordinated by the city of Warsaw, the conservation project is funded by LIFE+, the EU's financial instrument supporting environmental action, and Poland’s National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.

As part of the project, an educational pavilion in the shape of a stone will open in October in riverside Golędzinów, in Warsaw’s Praga Północ district. By hosting workshops and talks, the place will seek to inspire Warsaw’s residents and bring them closer to the natural habitat along the Vistula.

A film entitled “Warsaw’s Vistula”, showcasing the river’s natural wealth within the city agglomeration, is available on the project website in English.