Field vole

©Philip Precey

Field vole

Scientific name: Microtus agrestis
With a population of 75 million, the field vole is one of the UK's most common mammals. Hidden among the vegetation of grassland, heathland and moorland, it is not as easily spotted as the similar bank vole.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 8-13cm
Tail: 3-4cm
Weight: 20-50g
Average lifespan: 1 year

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

The field vole (also known as the short-tailed vole) is very common in grassland, heathland and moorland habitats. It is active day and night and eats seeds, roots and leaves. Further up the food chain, it forms an extremely important part of the diet of many predators, such as kestrels, weasels and barn owls. Field voles are not great climbers, preferring to move along the ground through a network of well-used runs that lead to their burrows. They can produce three to six litters of up to seven young a year, and undergo population booms every few years. These increases don't last long, however, as they have short lifespans and fall prey to other animals.

How to identify

The field vole is grey-brown above, and play grey below. It has shaggier fur than the similar bank vole and a proportionally shorter tail (less than 30% of its body length). Voles have blunter, rounder faces, smaller ears and eyes, and shorter tails than mice.

Distribution

Widespread, but absent from most of the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly, most Scottish islands, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Did you know?

During the breeding season, male field voles produce a musky and unpleasant smell. They will defend their territories fiercely, squeaking loudly and fighting, often to the death.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.