"Turn it up to 11, I’m ready for my open mic-e night" (Photo courtesy of Nature's Home reader, Mick Taylor)

One little critter has been causing a bit of a stir in the office, and not just because it’s cuter than any button. The UK is home to six different species of mice, four native shrew species and four vole species. While they have distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other mammals with ever-growing incisors, they can sometimes be tricky to tell apart from one another. While looking for otters along the banks of Loch na Keal on the Isle of Mull, Nature’s Home reader Mick Taylor snapped this great shot from an unusual angle. Ever since, we’ve been left wondering exactly what our photo of the week star is, spiralling into rodent-based discussions left right and centre. In case you’re also in a spot of identification bother, look no further. Here are a few key features to help get you started in determining your bank vole from your field mouse.

If very large eyes are staring back at you when examining your wildlife subject, you’re probably face to face with a mouse. Long tails, pointed noses and large, protruding ears are characteristic traits of mice, and species can be told apart from tails and colour of their fur. Field mice (or wood mice as they’re sometimes referred to) are covered in greyish brown fur with white/grey underbellies – much like in the photo. Their tails are roughly the same length as the animal’s head and body. These species particularly thrive in woodland, gardens and grassland, feeding on a varied diet of seeds, snails, insects, fruits, nuts and berries, as well as fungi. Could this be our mystery species?

House mice on the other hand are grey-brown all over, with thicker and scalier tails than other mice that are roughly the same length as their bodies, and almost devoid of fur. A tiny stature (weighing approximately 6g) and rich, golden brown fur are typical characteristics of harvest mice, and their small furry ears differ from other mice. Able to use their tales as a fifth limb, they’re the only mammal in Britain with a prehensile tail. Found in and south of central Yorkshire, harvest mice are a native species that build woven spherical nests high in tall grassland.  

The differences between field voles and field mice can be challenging to spot when tails aren’t in plain sight. As small and stocky rodents, field voles are common across grassland, moorland and heathland across the country. As a general rule, voles have blunter, rounder faces than mice and smaller eyes and ears that don't protrude as much as their rodent relatives. Otherwise known as short-tailed voles, field voles' little 3-4 cm tails and furry ears can help tell them apart from other species. Coats of this species are typically grey or brown, with light grey bellies.  

Bank voles are the country’s smallest vole species and have more of a red or chestnut colouration than field voles, but they also have light grey fur on their stomach and so it can be difficult to spot without seeing them next to one another. Again, they are stocky with short noses and have small facial features but with short tails of around 4-6 cm – a discernible difference between the two species.

Are you a rodent extraordinaire and think you know what our unidentified furry object is? We want to hear your thoughts below, do you know if this little chap is mouse or vole?

If you’re mad about these animals click here for an adorable bonus - a rodent rescue story.



Do you have any wild and wacky photos you want to share with us? Make sure to send them to natureshome@rspb.org.uk

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