Are margays: – nocturnal, ocelots, omnivores, apex predators and mammals?

Margays at least tend to be nocturnal. Other websites say that they are nocturnal. My reference book on the topic1 tells me that margays in Belize are strictly nocturnal as per radio tracking by a scientist in 1995. The study found that the margay was most active between 1 AM and 5 AM in the morning.

However, in contrast, a radio-coloured male in southern Brazil was active both during the daytime and night with about a 50/50 split.

Captive margays have been studied and they appear to be most active between 1 AM and 2 AM in the morning and also between 4 AM and 5 AM in the morning.

When they are active at night, they can sometimes rest in a safe bolthole such as a tangle of lianas during the daytime. This is a long-stemmed woody vine which uses trees as well as other means of vertical support.

Margay. Original image of margay: Wikipedia. Final image: MikeB.
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Not ocelots but similar appearance

Margays are not ocelots but the question is worth asking because the two species are very alike. One scientist in 1941, R.I. Pocock, in observing ocelots and margays at London Zoological Gardens said that “[They] were so strikingly alike that wiedii could only be distinguished by a smaller size and longer tail.”

Weidii‘ as part of the Latin (scientific) name for the margay. The full Latin name is Leopardus weidii. Both cats have very similar markings but the largest margay is almost invariably smaller than the smallest ocelot.

Not omnivores

Margays like other cat species are carnivores and they are not omnivores. They are amazing climbers and leapers and spend a lot of their time in trees but they also spend time on the ground hunting for food. Margays feed mainly on small rodents, birds, fruit and insects.

You will note that in that list there is fruit. This might mislead you into believing that margays are omnivores. It’s not true. All cat species eat a bit of vegetation such as the domestic cats eating grass and the snow leopard eating vegetation to improve oxygen transportation to allow them to work more efficiently at high altitude. They remain obligate carnivores.

Most of the margay’s prey animals are arboreal and nocturnal. They probably kill whatever suitable prey animal that they encounter when moving between hunting zones.

One scientist analysed the stomach contents of two margays and they contained the remains of a squirrel, a cane rat and three spiny pocket mice. The squirrel was arboreal. The other species were not.

Apex predator

Are margays apex predators? Apex predators are those at the top of the food chain without natural predators of their own. The human stands above the margay as a superior predator and therefore the margay cannot be said to be a true apex predator but then no wild species can on this basis. The same would apply to the lion which is regarded as one of the best-known apex predators. The margay can probably be described as an apex predator.


Margays are mammals as are all cat species both wild and domestic. Mammals are vertebrate animals in the class Mammalia. Female mammals have mammary glands which produce milk for feeding their young which were birthed as live offspring by their mother. Mammals have hair or fur and they are warm-blooded.

Note: 1 Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist at page 137.

Below are some more articles on the margay.

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