Wildlife and Habitat

White faced ibis and a snowy egret wade through wetlands

The sedges were full of birds, the waters were full of birds: avocets, stilts, willets, killdeers, coots, phalaropes, rails, tule wrens, yellow-headed black birds, black terns, Forster’s terns, Caspian terns, pintail, mallard, cinnamon teal, canvasback, redhead and ruddy ducks. Canada geese, night herons, great blue herons, Farallon cormorants, great white pelicans, great glossy ibises, California gulls, eared grebes, Western grebes—clouds of them, acres of them, square miles—one hundred and forty-three square miles of them!

~ Dallas Lore Sharp - 1914 - Lake Malheur Bird Reservation

  • Birds


    Historic bird counts show that the Refuge and the Silvies River floodplain north of the Refuge may support anywhere between 5 and 66 percent of the Pacific Flyway’s migrating populations for priority waterfowl. On the Refuge, breeding habitat is significant for waterbirds, with the Refuge supporting over 20 percent of the Oregon population of breeding greater sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis tabida). Most colonial waterbird numbers have easily exceeded 10 percent of the regional population at peak, even reaching up to 77 percent of the Great Basin population for certain species. Numbers of migrating shorebirds have been documented at levels high enough to qualify the Refuge as a Regional Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve. The Refuge also supports very high densities of certain nesting riparian passerines and the largest local population of bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) in the western U.S.

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  • Mammals

    Pronghorn promo list

    The refuge hosts over 58 species of mammals. Ungulates include mule deer, pronghorn antelope and the occasional Rocky Mountain elk. Coyotes are a common sight on the landscape, while bobcats and mountain lions are more elusive. A considerable number of rodents can be found throughout refuge habitats, however a full listing of species is not known at this time. Fourteen species of bats have been identified on the refuge and studies are on-going to document use of refuge habitats by bats.

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  • Amphibians & Reptiles


    Amphibians and reptiles have not been studied in great detail on the refuge. Western rattlesnakes, bull snakes and garter snakes are commonly found on the refuge, as are a small number of lizards. Research has identified a large population of Columbian spotted frogs using springs and wetlands at various locations on the refuge.

  • Fish

    Fish Promo list

    Twelve native fish species occur within waterways on the Refuge. Native redband trout and tui chub are the most common native fish species on the refuge. Sculpin, mountain white fish and a number of suckers have been identified during fish research studies on the refuge. Invasive common carp have been an ongoing problem since the 1940s and cause significant degradation of wetlands, ponds and lakes on the refuge and on adjacent private lands. The refuge's Aquatic Health program is working with a number of partners and researchers to decrease the carp population in the Harney Basin.

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  • Habitat

    Habitat Promo List

    The refuge encompasses an oasis of water in the high desert of southeast Oregon. Strategically located along the Pacific Flyway, the refuge manages a habitats essential for birds migrating through the area or birds staying to breed and nest in the 187,757 acres of diverse habitats. Wildlife use lake resources, wetlands, riparian areas, meadows and uplands throughout the year.

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