Mongolia combines a near absence of domestic poultry, with an abundance of migratory waterbirds, to create an ideal location to study the epidemiology of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) in a purely wild bird system. Here we present the findings of active and passive surveillance for HPAIV subtype H5N1 in Mongolia from 2005-2011, together with the results of five outbreak investigations. In total eight HPAIV outbreaks were confirmed in Mongolia during this period. Of these, one was detected during active surveillance employed by this project, three by active surveillance performed by Mongolian government agencies, and four through passive surveillance. A further three outbreaks were recorded in the neighbouring Tyva Republic of Russia on a lake that bisects the international border. No HPAIV was isolated (cultured) from 7,855 environmental fecal samples (primarily from ducks), or from 2,765 live, clinically healthy birds captured during active surveillance (primarily shelducks, geese and swans), while four HPAIVs were isolated from 141 clinically ill or dead birds located through active surveillance. Two low pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAIV) were cultured from ill or dead birds during active surveillance, while environmental feces and live healthy birds yielded 56 and 1 LPAIV respectively. All Mongolian outbreaks occurred in 2005 and 2006 (clade 2.2), or 2009 and 2010 (clade 188.8.131.52); all years in which spring HPAIV outbreaks were reported in Tibet and/or Qinghai provinces in China. The occurrence of outbreaks in areas deficient in domestic poultry is strong evidence that wild birds can carry HPAIV over at least moderate distances. However, failure to detect further outbreaks of clade 2.2 after June 2006, and clade 184.108.40.206 after June 2010 suggests that wild birds migrating to and from Mongolia may not be competent as indefinite reservoirs of HPAIV, or that HPAIV did not reach susceptible populations during our study.