Fall Wildlife Viewing

Mule deer buck with large antler display

Fall is a great time to view a wide variety of wildlife at Malheur. Especially popular for photographers are concentrations of mule deer bucks on meadows in the Blitzen Valley.


Over 200 pairs of greater sandhill cranes nest on the refuge each year. In September large groups of cranes begin congregating in grain fields on the refuge. Cranes from northern latitudes join Malheur birds to feed before continuing their journey to California's Central Valley where they winter. Early morning and late evening are the best times to view these birds. Ask at the Visitors Center for the best viewing locations.

Warblers, sparrows and other songbirds reach their autumn peak from mid-August through late September at Refuge Headquarters, P-Ranch and Page Springs. Joining the regular visitors are more unusual species, such as American redstart, indigo bunting and the possible eastern vagrant.

Many of the marshes and meadows dry up in the fall, driving concentrations of ibis, gulls, terns, pelicans and herons to cluster around the remaining pools of open water to feed on trapped fish. Ducks concentrate in open water on Marshall Pond at Headquarters; on Benson and Knox ponds north of the P-Ranch; and on Krumbo Reservoir.

Malheur also hosts an array of raptors. Swainson's and Red-tailed hawks are present and bald eagles and rough-legged hawks begin arriving in mid-October. Watch for raptors on power poles and in open fields and stay alert for the occasional merlin or peregrine falcon.

In addition to the abundance of birds using the refuge, mule deer are common - Refuge Headquarters and the southern Blitzen Valley are favorite viewing areas. Pronghorn antelope are also in the area, and elk are occasionally observed.