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Introduction

In the desert regions of southeastern Oregon, a travelers's impression is one of endless miles of wasteland and very little water. Speeding along the three major highways which traverse the region, the motorist mostly sees great expanses of desert shrubs, broken only by rimrocks, occasional stands of junipers, and widely scattered, isolated ranches. Most people do not realize that about 20 miles south of Burns, in Harney County, is one of the largest wetland complexes in North America.

The largest freshwater marsh in the western United States--Malheur Lake--is located in the central portion of Harney County. Beginning in 1982 and continuing through 1986, this marsh became Oregon's largest lake as a result of an abundance of precipitation coupled with low evaporation rates. Surrounding this marsh, or lake, are thousands of acres of meadows, ponds, alkali flats, shrubs uplands, and rimrocks, providing habitat for a multitude of bird species. Especially vital to many wildlife species are the native meadows. During spring migration over 250,000 ducks, 125,000 geese, and 6,000 lesser Sandhill Cranes may use this habitat simultaneously. In addition, nearly 25,000 duck pairs, 2,000 Canada Goose pairs, 1,500 Long-billed Curlews, and hundreds of other shorebirds, marshbirds, and songbirds remain through the summer to nest. In the deeper marshes, gulls, terns, ibises, herons, egrets, and cormorants usually find ideal nesting habitat. Although much of this area is privately owned, the federally owned Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is the regional center for species diversity and abundance.

The purpose of this report is to summarize bird data which have been accumulating on Malheur NWR, or what was to become the refuge, for over 110 years. Bird descriptions and distributions are not included here as this information is readily available in numerous recently published field guides.

Included in this report are the time periods when species have been present on the refuge and, for most forms, locating and habitat where they have been recorded in the past. However, because birds are highly mobile organisms, individuals of any species can be seen almost anywhere on the refuge. Dates presented here are certainly not carved in stone, as each year three or four species establish new arrival or departure records. Also, usually one or two species new to the refuge are added annually. therefore, by the time this report becomes available, some species will have likely established new arrival or departure dates. Information contained in this report is through December 31, 1988.

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