Sminthidae – Birch mice

A family of mouse-like jumping rodents that are found throughout Eurasia and contain around thirteen species in total

Bird mice are a common name for members of this family. They inhabit the woodlands and underbrush of Eurasia, as well as subalpine meadows within the region. These diminutive creatures, characterized by their brown or yellowish-brown fur with a slightly lighter underside, are distinguished by the length of their tails, which serve as both a means of balance and a tool for climbing. One of the most remarkable aspects of bird mice is their adeptness at digging extensive burrows within partially rotted tree stumps, utilizing these shelters as safe havens for nesting, breeding, and hibernation during the winter months.

Despite their small size, bird mice exhibit a diverse and adaptable diet, consuming a variety of plants and insects found within their woodland habitats. This dietary flexibility allows them to exploit a wide range of food resources depending on seasonal availability and environmental conditions. Furthermore, their burrowing behavior provides protection from predators such as weasels and owls, which rely on bird mice as a significant food source within their respective ecosystems.

During the winter months, bird mice employ a hibernation strategy to survive the harsh conditions of their subalpine habitats. By retreating underground into their burrows, they enter a state of torpor, conserving energy and minimizing metabolic activity until the arrival of spring signals the return of more favorable conditions for foraging and breeding. This hibernation strategy is essential for their survival during the cold and resource-scarce winter months, allowing them to endure prolonged periods of dormancy until food sources become more abundant.

While bird mice are primarily ground-dwelling rodents, capable of hopping and maneuvering adeptly across the forest floor, some individuals exhibit a preference for climbing, utilizing their tails as a supportive appendage to ascend trees and navigate through the dense vegetation of their woodland habitats.