As omnivores, rice rats consume a diverse mixture of plant and animal material. Their diet varies based on seasonal availability but commonly includes
Aquatic Plants: Rice rats feed on emergent vegetation along waterways such as cattails (Typha spp.), water lilies (Nymphaeaceae), and the invasive hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata). They consume the leaves, shoots, stems, and roots of these plants.
Terrestrial Plants: On land, rice rats eat grasses, sedges, millet, rushes, berries, seeds, fungi, tree bark, and roots. This provides carbohydrates, protein, and nutrients.
Invertebrates: Rice rats hunt insects, crustaceans, gastropods, and annelids as protein sources. They prey on grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, crayfish, crabs, and shrimp near water. Snails, worms, and insect larvae are also eaten.
Vertebrates: Small vertebrates supplement the rice rat diet. Rice rats consume fish, frog eggs, and the eggs and nestlings of birds. This provides additional protein.
Foraging: Rice rats forage for food both on land and in water. They swim and dive to collect floating mats of vegetation, allowing them to feed on aquatic invertebrates sheltered below. Rice rats generally consume 10-15% of their body weight in food daily. If their diet consists of moist vegetation and prey, rice rats do not need to drink much additional water.
Rice rats forage for food on land and in water. They can gather floating mats of vegetation to feed on aquatic invertebrates. Rice rats consume approximately 10-15% of body weight daily and can survive on plant matter alone. They do not need to drink much water if their diet is moist enough.