A rabbit's habitat comprises shelter, food and nesting sites. These three aspects are essential to the rabbit's survival. In order to find food without becoming food, the rabbit must be able to hide quickly when a predator approaches. Therefore, food areas in close proximity to sheltered areas are necessary when the rabbit chooses a home.
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Rabbits are found all over the world except in Antarctica and the islands of Southeast Asia. In some countries, such as Australia, there were no rabbits until recent times. Early settlers brought some with them, and the animals quickly spread across the country.
In North America, rabbits live in every type of wild area. You can find rabbits in fields, swamps, marshes and woods, and even in parts of big cities. The rabbit does not have a "home"; it simply uses whatever hiding place is available. This may be a clump of grass, a hollow log, or the low, overhanging branches of a fir tree. In Europe, rabbits make burrows--holes dug in the earth--and live in warrens, underground communities that consist of many burrows in the same area. In North America, rabbits sleep in forms--a shallow hollow in the ground. Only one type of North American rabbit, the pygmy rabbit, digs burrows to sleep in.
Rabbits are most active at night, waiting until the cover of night to search for food. Rabbits are herbivores--animals that eat mostly plants. They prefer fresh greens; however, in the winter, they will feed on twigs, buds and the bark of certain trees. In the Arctic, where everything is covered with snow most of the time, rabbits dig down to get buried moss and lichen, flowerless plants that grow on rocks and trees.
When a rabbit chooses a nesting site, she is searching for an area that is well hidden, protected from the elements, warm and dry, and close to where she can find food. Tall grasses mixed with clover provide excellent nesting areas since they combine food with shelter. Clover is an excellent source of food, especially for young rabbits. Rabbits are born with their eyes shut, furless and helpless; they need a great deal of protection.
Rabbits have many predators, including man. Many birds, such as eagles, hawks, crows, owls and buzzards, will hunt rabbits. Mammals such as bobcats, fox, wolves, coyotes and skunks fulfil a high percentage of their diet from rabbits. The rabbit's quick and agile running ability helps it evade these predators. Rabbits also use dense shrubs, hedgerows, thickets and bushy fencerows to escape when being hunted.
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