Malheur Shorebird Survey (MaSh)

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge| June 19-21 and August 28-31

Great Basin playas, springs, and wetlands provide important habitat for breeding and migrating shorebirds. This includes, Interior Snowy Plover populations, as well as regional and international migratory shorebird populations. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (MNWR) and Portland Audubon currently work together to survey shorebird use of Malheur Lake, but little work is done to monitor shorebird populations outside of the Malheur Lake sub-basin. Climate change predictions indicate possible loss of important habitat for shorebirds throughout the Great Basin. 

This project aims to engage volunteers from the Harney Basin and across Oregon and the PNW to monitor Snowy Plover and other shorebird use of climate affected playa, wetland, and spring habitat at Malheur NWR. Findings will be used to help manage shorebird species on the Refuge as well as contribute to USFWS to track regional Pacific Northwest and Pacific Flyway shorebird trends. This project is for the adventurous person who enjoys hiking long distances (up to 10 miles) in remote, beautiful areas in eastern Oregon. 

Partners: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

A Snowy Plover stands on the sand, its feathers puffed up.

About the Survey

  • Survey Instructions: Basic survey instructions are available including maps of survey areas.
  • When: June 19-21 and August 28-31
  • Where: Survey sites are all in closed areas of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. These sites include Stinking Lake, Harney Lake, and Mud Lake. Surveys may also happen at adjacent playa and spring habitat on BLM land depending on capacity.
  • Time Commitment: Four days, 1-2 for travel and 1-2 for surveys
  • Reporting: Completed shorebird datasheets will be provided after surveys are finalized. Datasheets will be collected from Team Leaders and submitted to the Malheur NWR wildlife and Portland Audubon biologists.


Volunteer Requirements

  • Trainings:  Orientation to the protocol and shorebird ID will be provided prior to surveying. Volunteers will work on a team.
  • Bird ID Skills: Must be able to identify Snowy Plovers and other shorebirds, including peeps. Team Leaders will be experienced with shorebird ID and will be familiar with survey sites and protocol.
  • Equipment: Must have own binoculars (some may be available from Malheur NWR with notice ahead of time). Some scopes will be provided. You are welcome to bring your own scope.
  • Field Conditions: All surveys occur in areas that do not have driving access. Because of this, most surveys have a hike-in/out in addition to the walking survey, thus most survey areas will require walking up to 10 miles on uneven, often sandy, terrain.
  • Transportation: Transportation to Malheur NWR will be your responsibility. Refuge vehicles will be available for Team Leaders to drive participants to survey sites.



For questions contact Teresa Wicks, Eastern Oregon Field Coordinator, at