About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Winter Bunnies

Most of the bunnies you see in Michigan are the Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). They have speckled brown-gray fur, big eyes, and a tail that is puffy white on the underside. In the winter its fur may be more gray than brown. Rabbits actually belong to their own order and are properly called lagomorphs. Many people mistakenly believe that wild rabbits and domesticated pet rabbits are the same species, but the domesticated rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) belongs to another genus and is only distantly related.

Eastern Cottontails have two different fur coats each year. During the summer they have short brown fur with a white belly. During the winter the fur becomes longer and grayer, with a white belly. All year long the underside of the tail is white. This white tail is the source of their common name.

They may live up to two years in the wild, but where predators are numerous they seldom survive more than one year. Hawks and owls are some avian predators, and foxes, raccoons, skunks, and opossums are some mammals that prey on rabbits.

Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they're most active at dusk and dawn, and are generally found in areas with dense cover. They also do well in suburban and urban areas where lawns, gardens, and various shrubs meet their habitat requirements.

Rabbits feed on leafy plants during the growing season and the buds and bark of woody plants in the winter. They produce two types fecal pellets (the round, dry ones and cecotropes). The cecotropes are produced in a region of the rabbit's digestive tract called the cecum. The cecum contains a natural community of bacteria and fungi that provide essential nutrients. They must re-ingest these fecal pellets to reabsorb nutrients from its food because their diet of plants is hard to digest efficiently, and they have to make two passes at it to get everything out of the meal.

Besides the plants essential to their diet, rabbits also need safe resting places like fall brush piles or dense shrubs in which to escape from predators. 

Related Articles:

- Ways that animals survive the winter http:/ways-animals-survive-winter.html
- When do bats hibernate? http://goo.gl/IES4Bt
- Do Voles Hibernate? http://bit.ly/rTcbQI
- When do Chipmunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/uGhBOB
- Do opossums hibernate during winter? http://bit.ly/u4ORP6
- Do skunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/xVKDXP

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