It was brought to my attention that we often focus so much on top predators that we forget about the little guys. The various prey species raptors and other birds depend on are important in their own right. Prey densities often dictate where birds overwinter, how reproductively successful they are, and how often birds must stop to re-fuel along migration routes.
Voles are small rodents, many of which form the genus Microtus, or the meadow voles. Microtus species are found continent-wide and are a critical prey species for many top predators, especially raptors. Voles are active and available to raptors during winter when many other prey species either hibernate or migrate south.
Like many small mammals, vole populations are cyclic and can erupt in huge numbers. When this happens, large numbers of raptors can be seen in these areas. Here are a few examples of raptor species large and small preying on voles.
Tags: 52-week project, buteo, buteo jamaicensis, hawk, Microtus, prey, Red-Tailed Hawk, utah, vole, Winter