Upcoming Events

With the help of Refuge partners, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is able to provide guided bird walks, bird surveys, and events on the Refuge to connect the hearts and minds of visitors with the places and resources the Refuge protects and enlighten visitors’ experiences with an understanding of, appreciation for, and knowledge about historic and natural resources, and the importance of conservation and stewardship. Scroll down to learn more about Upcoming Events - BIRD WALKS, BIRD SURVEYS, and HARNEY COUNTY MIGRATORY BIRD FESTIVAL.

Bird Walks and Bird Surveys

Contact Teresa Wicks at twicks@audubonportland.org to register for our bird walks and bird surveys. 

July 8: Malheur HQ Family-Friendly Bird Walk (8:00 – 9:30 am / 10:00 – 11:30 am)

Family-friendly bird walk / Registration is required

Join Portland Audubon's Eastern Oregon Field Coordinator for this family-friendly bird walk that will start at Malheur NWR headquarters at 8:00 am and 10:00 am in the parking lot. Children of all ages, and families of all kinds, are invited to come for a casual walk around Malheur NWR headquarters. There will be bird-related activities for youth to do at home or at the Refuge.

July 15: Malheur After Dark

Everyone is welcome / Registration is required 

Come celebrate dark skies and all things nocturnal at Malheur NWR headquarters with Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Portland Audubon. This program will take visitors behind the gates to the mouth of Malheur Lake. There we’ll take an evening bird walk and enjoy a star-viewing experience with the Oregon Observatory.

July 15 – September 15: Greater Sandhill Crane Recruitment (weekly)

Bird enthusiasts are welcome / Registration is required 

Help local biologists monitor sandhill crane colt production (the number of colts that make it through the nesting season) in the Harney Basin. Over the past several years, few colts have been observed in the Harney Basin. Recruitment data will help biologists understand current production numbers and allow for a comparison to historic levels. *Use of personal vehicles may be required. All surveys will be conducted along driving routes, gravel, and paved roads. Bathroom access will be intermittent along these routes.

July 22: East Canal Bird Walk (8:00 – 11:00 am)

All types of birders are welcome / Registration is required 

Join Portland Audubon's Eastern Oregon Field Coordinator and walk along East Canal at the southern portion of Malheur NWR. This 1.5-mile stretch of the Blitzen River runs through sagebrush sagebrush
The western United States’ sagebrush country encompasses over 175 million acres of public and private lands. The sagebrush landscape provides many benefits to our rural economies and communities, and it serves as crucial habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including the iconic greater sage-grouse and over 350 other species.

Learn more about sagebrush
, juniper, and woody riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

Learn more about riparian
vegetation, creating an excellent opportunity to look for upland, riparian, and river-loving bird species. We’ll move at a slow pace with frequent stops to look for birds, plants, insects, and other bits of nature. *There are no bathrooms or picnic tables at the trailhead.

July 29: Benson Pond Bird Walk (8:00 – 10:00 am)

All types of birders are welcome / Registration is required 

Join Portland Audubon's Eastern Oregon Field Coordinator on a 3-mile bird walk at the Malheur NWR Benson Pond Trailhead. The bird walk will travel along the northern edge of Benson Pond, through the stand of homestead-era trees, and back to the parking area. The diversity of aquatic habitat, emergent marsh, sagebrush/shrubland, and deciduous trees provides for a diverse assortment of bird species. This walk provides a great opportunity to observe ducks in non-breeding plumage and practice duck ID.

August 16 – 19: Fall Shorebird Survey

Bird enthusiasts are welcome / Registration is required

Join Portland Audubon and USFWS staff in supporting the effort to survey shorebirds in the intermountain west. We’ll survey the playas of the Double O at Malheur NWR for fall migrating and staging shorebirds. This survey is part of a project organized by Point Blue Bird Observatory and National Audubon, with support from the USFWS. There are some driving routes during this survey. All other routes require a minimum of 5 miles of hiking, with the possibility of 10 miles roundtrip. *Use of personal vehicles may be required. Camping sites and camping gear will be available for participants during this event. There will be no bathroom access during walking routes and driving routes will only have bathroom access at the beginning and end of the route.

August 30 – September 3: Blitzen River Mussel Survey

Everyone is welcome / Registration is required

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is one of five important Oregon strongholds identified by the Xerces Society for western ridged mussels. These freshwater bivalves are an important part of the Blitzen River ecosystem, filtering particulates out of the river as they feed. Due to their regionwide population declines, they’ve been proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. We’ll primarily survey the northern region of the Blitzen River, though, with enough volunteers, we’ll head to the southern end of the Refuge to look for western pearlshell musssels. These surveys will require walking in the river in waders and using an aquascope to look through the water. There may be an opportunity to snorkel some reaches of the river in wetsuits for a few volunteers. *Use of personal vehicles may be required. Camping sites and camping gear will be available for participants during this survey. There will be no bathrooms during this survey.

September 23: Song Meter Project

Advanced birders needed / Registration is required

Training Learn about autonomous recording units (song meters) and about our project using this technology to monitor birds in the Harney Basin. Volunteers need to be good at identifying birds by ear and/or by spectrogram and will need access to a computer and email account. Files will be shared through Google Drive. Volunteers will need to download Audacity or RavenLite listening software for listening to files.

October 8 – 14: Malheur NWR Celebration Week

Everyone is welcome / Registration is not required

Come celebrate at Malheur NWR with a week-long series of programs and events. Kick off the week with the Walk for the Wild, count as many birds as possible over the Global Bird Weekend, and end the week at the historic Sod House Ranch with a star gazing event.

October 23 – 26: BPT Sagebrush Planting

Everyone is welcome / Registration is required 

Come plant sagebrush, native grasses, etc. at the Burns Paiute Tribe’s Jonesborough Property along the John Day River. This project requires transport via ATV and walking on an uneven surface, uphill, in a field invaded by medusahead grass. *Bathrooms and water will be available on-site, but not out where we are planting. We’ll camp near the bunkhouse, under a starry sky (weather dependent).

October 26 – 28: BPT Oregon Semaphore Grass Planting

Everyone is welcome / Registration is required 

Work with the Burns Paiute Tribe’s Natural Resources Department to plant Oregon’s rarest grass and one of the rarest grasses in the U.S. at the Tribe’s Logan Valley property. This project requires walking through meadows on uneven surfaces. Occasionally, volunteers may need to cross small creek channels by stepping across. Camping will be provided. Camping gear will be available for volunteer use. Showers and flushing toilets will be accessible. *Camping sites and camping gear will be available for participants during this survey. Showers and flushing toilets will be accessible.

Harney County Migratory Bird Festival

Snow and Ross' Geese

The Harney County Migratory Bird Festival is held annually in April in Harney County. It is an amazing weekend witnessing the spectacular spring migration in the Harney Basin and viewing thousands of migratory birds resting and feeding in the open spaces of Oregon's high desert. Over 340 species of birds use Malheur National Wildlife Refuge throughout each year, making Harney Basin a bird watcher's paradise.

The Harney County Migratory Bird Festival was first held in 1981 ​to celebrate the large annual migration of birds passing through Harney Basin on the Pacific Flyway. Harney Basin is one of the three most important areas left in the western United States for spring migratory birds stopping on their way north.

​Today, we celebrate the migratory birds' return each year with guided tours led by experts, workshops, and fun activities for youth and adults. 

Festival's Past, Present, and Future

The Festival began in 1981 as a Kiwanis-sponsored event. With the abundance of birds using the Harney Basin in the spring, Joe Hardwick convinced members of the Kiwanis to host a bird festival that would draw visitors from outside of the Harney Basin. 

During the festival's first years, the event was held at the Grange Hall on the corner of Highway 205 and Highway 78. This all-volunteer event was named in honor of John Scharff after several years. John Scharff was the first on-site manager of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 1935.

In the early 1990s, the bird festival began shifting its focus from self-guided tours to organized tours led by area bird experts. It was at this time that the Refuge, Bureau of Land Management, and Forest Service took on a more active role in the festival. The organization of the festival was still directed by volunteers, but the tours were led by agency personnel in agency vehicles.

As the festival outgrew the capacity of the dedicated group of volunteer organizers, the Bird Festival Committee began exploring other options for oversight. The festival has since transitioned to a multi-partner-led event with the help of the Harney County Chamber of Commerce



A portion of the profits from the bird festival is available locally as grants for wildlife interpretation, educational projects, and other community projects associated with the festival.