Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Rodentia / Muridae / Microtus / Species
Microtus arvalis - Common Vole (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Orkney vole (Microtus arvalis orcadensis) - Mainland Orkney, Rousay, South Ronaldsay
  • Orkney vole (Microtus arvalis sandayensis) - Orkney (Sanday, Westray)
  • Guernsey vole (Microtus arvalis sarnius)
  • Vole-mouse
  • Campagnol des champs (French)
  • Feldmaus (German)

Alternative species names (the second part of the binomial species names): [Genus] albus; [Genus] arvensis; [Genus] angularis; [Genus] assimilis; [Genus] asturianus; [Genus] brauneri; [Genus] calypsus;  [Genus] caucasicus; [Genus] cimbricus; [Genus] contigua; [Genus] cunicularis; [Genus] depressa; [Genus] duplicatus; [Genus] flava;  [Genus] galliardi; [Genus] grandis; [Genus] heptneri; [Genus] howelkae; [Genus] igmanensis; [Genus] incertus; [Genus] incognitus; [Genus] levis; [Genus] meldensis; [Genus] meridianus;  [Genus] orcadensis; [Genus] oyaensis; [Genus] principalis; [Genus] ronaldshaiensis; [Genus] rousiensis; [Genus] rufescentefuscus; [Genus] ruthenus; [Genus] sandayensis; [Genus] sarnius; [Genus] simplex;  [Genus] terrestris; [Genus] variabilis; [Genus] vulgaris; [Genus] westrae (B141).

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males  
Names for females  

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General Appearance

Typical vole: small rodent with blunt muzzle, small eyes and small ears and short tail. Back grey-brown. (B142, D30).

Similar Species

  • Distinguished from mice by much blunter muzzle and shorter tail.
  • Distinguished from sympatric voles: coat shorter and lighter, ears less hairy. Also tooth morphology (B143).
  • Distinguished from Clethrionomys glareolus Bank vole by greyish-brown colour (for juveniles, by shorter tail and smaller ears), and from Arvicola terrestris - Water vole juveniles by smaller size particularly shorter hind feet) and shorter tail.
  • Distinguished from Microtus agrestis by shape of second upper molar (extra lobe in Microtus agrestis), also by shorter coat and less-hairy ears.

(B142, D30).

Sexual Dimorphism --

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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

Husbandry references:
B142, B156.12.w12, B169.20.w20

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group


Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques


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Husbandry Information


Orkney voles: Readily live in colonies, but newcomers (or residents removed then returned) killed immediately (B142).
Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Length Head-body length:Orkney vole (Microtus arvalis orcadensis) males 98-134mm mean 122mm, females 97-128mm mean 118mm (B142).

3.6-4.8in./9-12cm Central Europe (B144)

Tail length: Orkney vole (Microtus arvalis orcadensis) males 28-44mm mean 39mm, femlaes 27-41mm mean 36mm (B142)

Height --
Adult weight General 0.7-1.4oz./20-40g (B144)
Male Orkney vole (Microtus arvalis orcadensis) 29-67g mean 42g (B142)
Female Orkney vole (Microtus arvalis orcadensis) 22-55g mean 36g (B142)
New-born weight 0.03-0.11oz/1-3g; average 0.07oz/2g, in Germany (B144)
Growth rate --

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General --




Dentition (Teeth) --
Eyes --

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Legs and Tracks


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Short; 1-1.8in/2.5-4.5cm (B144).

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female Dorsal yellow-grey, ventral lighter. (B144)
Variations (If present) Melanistic (black) (B142)
Moult --
New-born / Juvenile --

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics


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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)



Reproductive: Four pairs of nipples (B147)


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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Reproductive Stages

Breeding Season Seasonal pattern (B142)
Oestrus / Ovulation --
Gestation / Pregnancy About 20 days (B142);19-21 days (B144),
Parturition / Birth --
Neonatal development --
Litter size 1-6 (captive data, Orkney voles) (B142);1-13, average about 6 (B144)
Time between Litters / Litters per year --
Lactation / Milk Production About 20 days (B142, B144)
Sexual Maturity Breed in summer following birth. (B142)
Longevity Die after breeding (B142).

Up to 3 years in captivity (B144)

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Natural Diet

  • Grasses and dicotyledons - leaves, stems, roots.

(B142, B143, B147)

Occasionally bark and arthropods (B144)

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Temperature --
Pulse --
Respiration --
Faeces Green to black (B142).
Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes 2n =46 (B142)
Other --

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Feeding Behaviour


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Parental Behaviour

  • Male grooms juveniles and retrieves if displaced (captive data) (B142).
  • Juveniles stay with females for several days after emerging from nest (B142).

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

Intra-specific Orkney:
  • Monogamous pairs hold exclusive range in July-August.
  • Juveniles disperse after several days outside nest.
  • Considerable overlap in ranges in winter.
  • Not in pairs in winter.
  • Territory size varies considerably depending on habitat and season.


Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Monogamous over summer (B142).

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Predation in Wild

  • Orkney: hen harrier, short-eared owl, domestic cat (B142).
  • Fox, white weasel, stoat, common buzzard, kestrel, long-eared owl etc. (B144)

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Activity Patterns

Usually sleep in nest, sometimes in tunnel system.
  • May be active day and night with alternating rest and foraging periods (three hour cycle on Orkney, 2-2.5 hour cycle for animals from European continent).
  • Active all year: do not hibernate.

(B142, B147)

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

Steppes and dry meadows, open cultivated agricultural land such as grain fields, grazed pastures, short meadows. (B143, B144).
  • Guernsey: wet meadows rather than drier hedgebanks (B142).
  • Orkney: coniferous plantations, deciduous plantations, marsh, heather moorland, hay meadows, ditches, gardens. Not arable land or short pasture (B142)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

  • Build tunnels with nests and storage chambers.
  • Surface runways connect tunnels.

(B143, B144)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Europe: France eastwards to central Russia. Isolated populations on Iberian peninsula.

"Denmark and northern Spain to Ural Mountains, Orkney Islands" (B147)

Not found: British Isles, Mediterranean, most of Fennoscandia, northern Russia.

Present on Orkney Islands (Mainland Orkney, Wastray, Sanday, Stronsay, South Ronaldsay, Rousay), Guernsey.

(B142, B143)

Occasional and Accidental --

Probably introduced to Orkney Islands by Neolithic settlers (B221).

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Intraspecific variation

  • More than 20 subspecies suggested but questionable status (B143).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Common. Density highly variable. More than 1000/hectare in peak years of cycle. Considered serious agricultural pest (B143, B144).

  • In Britain: common where present. Population estimate of about 1,000,000, including 0 in England, 1,000,000 in Scotland (Orkeny Islands), 0 in Wales; Guernsey population not included. Population estimate was considered reliable and likely to be inaccurate by no more than 10% in either direction (B221)

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Within Orkney: loss of natural habitat to agriculture, with resultant population fragmentation (B221).
Captive Populations  

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