Black Rat juvenile
Despite its name, the Black Rat is usually brown or grey. A distinctive characteristic of rats that helps distinguish them from similarly sized carnivorous marsupials is their front teeth: a pair of chisel shaped incisors with hard yellow enamel on the front surfaces. Other characteristics that identify a Black Rat from other rats include the following: Long pointed head (can be more rounded in juvenile). Large thin ears (20mm+) which reach middle of eye when bent forward. Charcoal grey to black or light brown above, cream or white below; sleek smooth coat. Scaly tail, much longer than head and body. Image: Jane Vernon
Jane Vernon

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    rattus
    Genus
    Rattus
    Family
    Muridae
    Order
    Rodentia
    Subclass
    Eutheria
    Class
    Mammalia
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    Body 165-205 mm, Tail 185-255 mm, Weight 95-340 g.

Introduction

This rat was probably introduced to Sydney with the First Fleet.

Identification

Despite its name, the Black Rat is usually brown or grey. A distinctive characteristic of rats that helps distinguish them from similarly sized carnivorous marsupials is their front teeth: a pair of chisel shaped incisors with hard yellow enamel on the front surfaces. Other characteristics that identify a Black Rat from other rats include the following:

  • Long pointed head (can be more rounded in juvenile).
  • Large thin ears (20mm+) which reach middle of eye when bent forward.
  • Charcoal grey to black or light brown above, cream or white below; sleek smooth coat.
  • Scaly tail, much longer than head and body.

Similar species

Brown Rat; also, juveniles sometimes mistaken for marsupials or mice.

Habitat

The Black Rat lives in urban areas. They prefer to live in roofs, cavity walls, trees, scrapes or burrows around farms, making nests of shredded materials. Black Rats are very closely associated with humans, common in urban areas, and are very agile climbers.

Distribution

The Black Rat has now spread throughout much of coastal Australia and is most commonly seen in urban environments, but also in undisturbed areas around the coast.



Feeding and diet

The Black Rat has successfully adapted to human urbanisation partly because it eats just about anything.

Other behaviours and adaptations

Black Rats are nocturnal, but are often seen during the day.

Breeding behaviours

The Black Rat is a prolific breeder. Females have litters of about five to ten young and may have up to six litters per year. The young are born blind but develop rapidly and are weaned after 20 days.