Harvest Mouse

Harvest MouseYou are more likely to spot the closely woven nest of a Harvest Mouse than the animal itself.
Photo: ©Natural England/Julian Dowse

Scientific name: Micromys minutus

Cornish name: Meader

Conservation status: IUCN Red List, Lower Risk/Near Threatened; UK Biodiversity Action Plan, Priority Species

What to look for:

  • Appearance and colouring: A tiny rodent with a blunt nose, golden coloured coat and white chest and belly, hairy ears and a long prehensile tail.
  • Size: Length 5 to 7 cm
  • Where: Although it can be found feeding in arable fields, it mainly lives in hedgerows and among the refuge of tall vegetation. Not usually found north of Yorkshire.

Harvest MouseA Harvest Mouse with its tail wrapped round a sheaf of corn is one of the iconic images of the British countryside. Mainly eating seeds, berries and invertebrates, as well as grain, this tiny mammal is the smallest rodent in Europe. It can more often be found in the shelter of hedgerows and long grass or reed beds rather than in the middle of a cornfield: they are fantastic climbers.

The Harvest Mouse’s nest is unique for British mammals – no other mammal here weaves nests above the ground. Non-breeding individuals also build a nest as protection and shelter. Two to three litters are produced per year, with the female building a new nest for each.

Did you know…?

…The Harvest Mouse has extremely good hearing – it can pick up sounds up to 7 m away, enabling it to take cover or freeze as a protection from predators.

…The Harvest Mouse is the only British mammal with a prehensile tail.

More information and references:

Cornwall Mammal Group, 2013. The Mammals of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (edited by David Groves).  Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (ERCCIS), Cornwall.

Published: December 2014
Author: Amanda Scott
Photo: ©Natural England/Julian Dowse