The pika is a small animal, with short limbs, rounded ears, and short tail. The name pika (pronounced /ˈpaɪkə/ PYE-kə, archaically spelled pica) is used for any member of the Ochotonidae, a family within the order of lagomorphs, which also includes the Leporidae (rabbits and hares). One genus, Ochotona, is recognised within the family, and it includes 30 species. Pikas are also called rock rabbits or coneys. It is also known as the "whistling hare" due to its high-pitched alarm call when diving into its burrow. The name "pika" appears to be derived from the Tungus piika, or perhaps from the Russian pikat "to squeak".
Pikas are native to cold climates, mostly in Asia, North America and parts of eastern Europe. Most species live on rocky mountain sides, where there are numerous crevices to shelter in, although some also construct crude burrows. A few burrowing species are instead native to open steppe land. In the mountains of Eurasia, pikas often share their burrows with snowfinches, which build their nests there.
Pikas are small animals, with short limbs, rounded ears, and short tails. They are about 6-9 in. in body length, with a tail less than 2 cm long, and weigh between 120 and 350 grams, depending on species. Like rabbits, after eating they initially produce soft green feces, which they eat again to extract further nutrition, before producing the final, solid, fecal pellets.
These animals are herbivores, and feed on a wide variety of plant matter. Because of their native habitat, they primarily eat grasses, sedges, shrub twigs, moss, and lichen. As with other lagomorphs, pikas have gnawing incisors and no canines, although they have fewer molars than rabbits, giving them a dental formula of:
Rock-dwelling pikas have small litters of less than five young, while the burrowing species tend to give birth to more young, and to breed more frequently, possibly due to a greater availability of resources in their native habitats. The young are born after a gestation period of between 25 and 30 days.
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