Cottontails (Eastern Cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus) are generally abundant and tolerant of humans, providing ample opportunities for observation of their behavior. The food habits of herbivores are one behavior in particular that has always interested me because of the relationship between herbivore populations, biodiversity and ecosystem health.
While watching this young Cottontail forage, two aspects of its feeding behavior were apparent. First, its nose was working overtime. Everything was tested with the olfactory senses prior to selection and consumption.
Also noteworthy was the type of plant selected. Preferred foods of cottontails are mostly forbs – broad-leaved herbaceous plants. This bunny ate clover – both the leaves and flowers, plantain, dandelion and mallow while I watched. I think I saw a blade of grass disappear in its mouth, but grass was obviously not the dietary staple.
Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.