Do Squirrels Build Nests? How Does Squirrel’s Nest Look Like?

Have you ever wondered where a squirrel lives? You may have questions as to whether a squirrel does build a nest.

You must have probably come across an odd-looking nest, which made you question if squirrels might be living in it. Most people know that squirrels live in trees but are not sure if they make nests.

By reading this article, you are sure to have all your questions answered. Keep reading, and you will learn if squirrels build nests to live in and more.

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Do Squirrels Build Nests?

it’s easy to identify a squirrel’s nest from its look; it looks like a messy ball

Have you ever wondered where squirrels live? Does a squirrel build a nest on trees? 

The answer is super simple, squirrels do build nests. Any nests that you saw near your home might belong to a squirrel. A squirrel’s nest is called a drey. It isn’t easy to know a squirrel’s nest since it looks similar to that of birds.

However, there are ways of differentiating a squirrel’s nest from that of a bird. A squirrel’s drey looks more like that of a messy ball. You should also see a bunch of leafy twigs around the drey.

You should also tell if the nest belongs to a squirrel if you see chewed pine cones left on the ground. Such signs tell you that there are squirrels within the compound.

Also, any scratch marks on tree barks indicate the presence of squirrels. You should automatically know that there are squirrels around if any of these signs are visible within your compound.

Squirrels build nests to survive during winter and when caring for their babies. The dreys are useful when squirrels are surveying their territory. Most dreys are close to food sources.

Where Do Squirrels Build their Nest?

A Squirrel’s drey on a tree

Have you ever come across a squirrel’s nest? Where exactly was it located? If you have seen a squirrel’s nest before, you must have noticed that it is strategically placed.

When squirrels are building their nests, they make sure it is high on trees. It is because they try to avoid ground predators that can easily access them. Because of this, the nest must be 60 feet above the ground.

The location of a squirrel’s nest is also strategically placed. A squirrel’s nest is placed in forks of branches. It is the place where the tree is strong. Squirrels also build close to trunks for the same reason.

Squirrels also consider building a nest if it is convenient for them. Convenience, in this case, will apply to the point of food sources. 

If a squirrel quickly finds food in a given area, then it will build several nests in the area. That explains why you may see new squirrel nests within your compound. 

If the squirrel finds it easy to locate food, it will not hesitate to set up a nest in your compound. Any area that is safe from predators is also ideal for squirrels.

When Do Squirrels Build Their Nests?

Even though squirrels live in nests, there is a specific time when the building process is more common. Squirrels build their nests during a particular period in preparation for what is ahead.

A Squirrel gathering materials for its nest

Squirrels tend to build nests right before winter begins. During September and October, you will see these creatures busy building their nests

This is a winter nest because it will help keep the squirrel warm during the cold period. The nest should be under protection from strong winds. 

The building has to be done in good time to avoid harsh weather conditions. Since most squirrels rarely hibernate, they will need to move out during winter to eat. They move from one stash to another to seek food.

Squirrels will also take advantage of any abandoned tree den. The tree den is preferable as it offers better conditions during winter. Squirrels will be sure to add softer materials to make them more habitable.

Types of Squirrels that Build Nests?

Are you aware of the different types of squirrels? There are many squirrels, including tree squirrels, chipmunks, ground squirrels, marmots, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. However, not all squirrels build nests.

Only two types of squirrels build nests. That includes the tree squirrel and the flying squirrel. The drey purposely helps in survival. During winter, squirrels require an ideal environment that is warm. 

During such a period, squirrels need to have a warm enough drey. Did you know that most squirrels do not hibernate? That would explain why having a warm drey is essential during winter.

Before the tree and flying squirrel build their nest, they have to identify a nearby food source. Squirrels will only make a drey after identifying a source of food that is easy to access.

Did you know that squirrels can have more than one nest? Female squirrels, in particular, can have about four or five nests. The multiple nests are a way of life for a squirrel’s survival.

Squirrels have multiple nests to escape from fleas and ticks. In case fleas infest one nest, squirrels always turn to another.

How Many Types of Squirrel Nests are Available?

Now that you are certain squirrels do build nests, it becomes obvious wanting to know the available squirrel nests. Have you encountered any squirrel nests within your surroundings?

You are likely to find two types of squirrels’ nests within the surroundings. One of the types of nests is called a tree cavity den.

A Squirrel making its drey out of a tree cavity
A Squirrel making its drey out of a tree cavity

A tree cavity den is an abandoned bird nest that squirrels claim. Woodpeckers create the tree cavity den and later on leave it. Once abandoned, squirrels claim it as their own.

The other type of squirrel nest is referred to as a leaf nest. Unlike the tree cavity nest, a leaf nest is created by the squirrel. The leaf nest is similar to a large bird’s nest.

The two types of Squirrels’ nest

However, the squirrel nest stands out from the bird’s nest because it is more prominent in size. You should notice a giant nest which is high up the tree. 

Squirrels love to build their nests high up the tree to keep off predators such as foxes. However, this is also a disadvantage since it exposes the nest to owls which are their predators.

What Do Squirrels Nest Look Like?

Now you know that the common nests for squirrels are leaf nests and tree cavity den. But that’s not all. It would be helpful if you know how to distinguish the two nests, and by this, you need to know how they look.

Below, I’m going to talk about each nest separately and in detail. That way, I’m hoping you can easily recognize any squirrel’s nest if you find it.

Nest #1: Tree Cavity Den

The tree cavity den is unique from the leaf nest. It is important to remember that squirrels don’t build a tree cavity den; instead, it was once a home for a woodpecker. Once abandoned, the squirrel steps up and acquires it. 

The tree cavity den is usually a hollow opening on trees. It is ideal for squirrels since it offers better protection from harsh weather conditions. The nest protects them from rain, snow, and wind.

The tree cavity den should have a small opening. This is very important to the squirrel as it keeps predators such as raccoons away. 

If you find a tree cavity with a wide opening, you can be sure no squirrel can be living there. This is because the vast space gives access to predators. 

Did you know that litters born in tree dens have a high chance of surviving, unlike those born in a leaf nest? The tree den is ideal, especially during the winter period.

Nest #2: Leaf Nest

Leaf nests are easy to identify since they look like bird nests. The leaf nest contains twigs, leaves, moss, bark, and other compressed materials.

The main component of leaf nests is leaves. However, squirrels being opportunistic animals, can utilize what is readily available in the environment. You should not be surprised to find other materials such as wood, paper, or even garbage.

Identifying a leaf nest is easy since the outer part will have twigs and vines. The leaf nest is basically like that of a bird. The only immediate difference being, a leaf nest, will be slightly larger.

The leaf nest has the shape of a globe. Many people have also noted that a squirrel’s nest looks like clumps of leaves. That means it may appear like an untidy nest from the outside.

However, that does not mean that squirrels build their nest without any order. On the contrary, a leaf nest is quite complex in its construction. 

It is also important to note that a leaf nest is commonly on high branches. Squirrels build leaf nests high on trees to avoid ground predators such as foxes.

How Do Squirrels Build Nests?

the different sages of a squirrel’s nest building

Since squirrel’s nests vary, even how these critters build these nests is different. Continue learning and see the process squirrels go through when building their nests. 

How Do Squirrels Build Tree Cavity Den?

Before discussing how a squirrel builds a tree den, you have to remember that it is acquired. Woodpeckers abandon most tree dens that squirrels obtain. 

Any other tree den that a squirrel may consider living in is created from natural processes. Some natural processes cause old trees to hollow out. 

In such a case, the hollow opening can act as a perfect home for squirrels if it gives protection from snow, wind, and rain.

Step #1: Locating a Tree Cavity Den

Squirrels don’t establish tree cavity dens but occupy the ones abandoned by birds, for instance. After finding the cavity den, these animals need to make it habitable.

Step #2: Weaving the Tree Cavity Den

For the den to be habitable, a squirrel will weave it with live green twigs before adding soft materials inside. The soft materials include things like damp leaves and moss.

The damp leaves and moss are preferred because they are better at insulation. That makes them favorable during winter when the weather is not very ideal.

How Do Squirrels Build A Leaf Nest?

Baby Squirrels Nesting (Source: BBC)

A leaf nest is a secondary option for squirrels when they cannot find a tree cavity den. Remember that tree cavity dens are more favorable because they offer better protection from harsh weather conditions.

However, if a squirrel cannot find a suitable tree cavity den, it will build a leaf nest. The leaf nest must have good insulation to offer better protection for the squirrel. 

Step #1: Weaving the Twigs

Squirrels begin building a leaf nest by weaving twigs together. The woven twigs are necessary as they form the floor of the leaf nest.

Once that is complete, squirrels add damp leaves and moss onto the woven twigs. That is an essential step in the entire process since it will help in reinforcing the whole structure. 

Step #2: Weaving a Spherical Base

After adding damp leaves and moss, what follows is weaving a spherical base. That is going to form an outer shell for the leaf nest of the squirrel. After weaving the outer shell, squirrels finalize by adding leaves, twigs, or moss.

Do Squirrels Allow Other Squirrels to Live in Their Nests?

It is a proven fact that squirrels can have more than three nests but do they share them? Once a squirrel has identified its territory, it will build several nests around the area. It provides for accessible escape routes.

Squirrels build nests close to their food sources. Therefore, if a squirrel were to be chased by a predator while searching for food, it would quickly run to its nearest nest. That makes it very convenient to have multiple nests.

Back to the main question, do squirrels share nests? Yes, squirrels do share nests for different reasons. One main reason for squirrels to share nests is mating

During the mating period, squirrels share a nest though briefly. Apart from the mating period, squirrels also share a nest during winter. When it gets cold, squirrels share a nest to conserve body heat. 

By sharing a nest, squirrels can lose less heat by staying close to each other. They will also share their nest when raising their young ones.

Wrapping Up

Squirrels build nests for various reasons. One of the main reasons is to keep warm during the cold season. Since squirrels rarely hibernate, they need to have a warm place during winter. 

The nest will also be helpful when a squirrel is surveying its territory. Since a squirrel will have more than one nest, it will use them when exploring its environment. 

The nest is also proper when a squirrel is caring for its young. When squirrels are building their nests, they have to consider how close their food source is.

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