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From bald eagles to spoonbills, from condors to puffins, birds abound in National Wildlife Refuges. Refuges provide places for birds to nest, rest, feed, and breed making them world-renown for their birding opportunities. At Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, birding has become one of the most common activities engaged in by visitors.

Malheur is famous for its spectacular concentrations of wildlife, which are attracted to the Refuge’s habitats and abundant water resources in an otherwise arid landscape. With more than 340 bird species, Malheur is a mecca for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Located on the Pacific Flyway, Malheur's abundant water and food resources provide resting, nesting, and feeding for many resident and migratory birds. 

Rules and Policies

Please observe and follow Refuge Rules and Policies for your safety and to protect wildlife and their habitat. Birding is permitted only on designated roads, trails, and sites as shown on the Refuge Map and Trails Brochure. Use caution on the East Canal Road, it is shared with vehicular traffic.

When to Go

The greatest variety of waterfowl and songbirds can be found on the Refuge from late winter through the end of May, but something worth viewing is available at any time of the year. The abundance of species varies by the seasons, as you will see by the available Watchable Wildlife Brochure and the Refuge’s Average Early Arrival Dates for migratory species if you come in spring with particular species in mind. Spring is best for wildlife watching, not just because the birds are in fresh plumage and engaged in public display, but also because large flocks of some species make spectacular appearances in the newly wet meadows, which brings many species out in the open. 

Early morning and late evening are the best times to observe wildlife and binoculars and spotting scopes are encouraged to allow you to get a closer look without leaving your vehicle. Your vehicle is an excellent observation and photographic blind. Please stay in your vehicle if possible to avoid scaring wildlife. Be considerate and bird from the curb – the next visitors will appreciate it.  

Best Sites for Birding

  • Refuge Headquarters
  • Buena Vista Ponds
  • Krumbo Reservoir
  • Benson Pond
  • Knox Ponds
  • Historic P Ranch
  • Historic Sod House Ranch (open August 15 - October 1)

Trail Etiquette

  • Dispose of all trash and animal waste in trash receptacles
  • Pets must be kept on a leash
  • Stay on the trail, and respect plants and wildlife
  • Leave natural objects such as plants, animals, minerals, antlers, and objects of antiquity
  • Yield to pedestrians; many Refuge routes are multi-use trails