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 learn more and register for our bird walks and bird surveys. 

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.