Ashley Shih, of Russley School, asks :-

Why do rabbits sleep in the day time and not at night?

John Parkes, an animal ecologist at Landcare Research, Lincoln, responded.

The rabbits we have in New Zealand were brought here last century from England, and the species was taken there from Spain in the 12th or 13th century. The life these European ancestors lived perhaps explains why our rabbits, and in fact most small mammals, are most active at night.

First, there are a lot of predators in southern Europe that like to eat rabbits, and in fact about a third of rabbits on one area studied in France were killed by predators. Coming out at night avoids altogether at least some of these predators such as the large birds, eagles and hawks, that only hunt in the daytime. Rabbits still have to contend with predators in New Zealand where ferrets, feral cats, stoats, and harrier hawks all enjoy a meal of rabbit. In many areas of New Zealand these predators are responsible for keeping rabbit numbers down enough so farmers do not have a problem. Second, rabbits do not like very hot temperatures and avoid them by staying in the cool of their burrows in the daytime.

In New Zealand rabbits spend most of the day resting in their burrows or under bushes or scrub and come out in the evening. In places such as Otago and the Mackenzie Basin in New Zealand it is often very cold, and here rabbits often come out in the daytime to sunbathe or feed while the grass is thawed.