When you hear about squirrels, what comes to your mind? A nice-looking little furball that is amusing to watch, right? But did you know that there are a lot of fun facts about squirrels and they have a comprehensive range of treasured foods? Let’s explore these creatures together in the “Facts About Squirrel Diet And Habitat”.
We often see these animals dashing through the trees, and their pretty-pretty bushy tail never fails to draw our attention. Why do you think a large number of people are interested in owning pet squirrels?
Just pluck up the courage to ask a few people with squirrels why they love these furballs. Trust me; the answers are myriad. And that’s because there is a lot to know about squirrels.
This article covers everything you need to know about squirrels, including their diet, habit, and a whole lot of squirrel facts.
- Squirrels: Species Overview
- Diet of Squirrel
- Habits of Squirrel
- 8 Other Facts
- Final Thoughts
Squirrels: Species Overview
By looking, any person can tell that squirrels are quadruped, have body fur, peripheral eyes, rounded or pointed ears, and sharp claws. And this is true for all squirrels. But let’s see the detailed description of squirrels.
What Animal Is A Squirrel?
The word squirrel refers to a small mammal in the order Rodentia and Sciuridae family. They are small rodents with slender bodies, large eyes, and fluffy tails. Like other rodents, squirrels possess four specialized incisor teeth.
For further reading about squirrels dentition
A squirrel body is covered with both guard hairs and fur. The former is the longer outer hair, and the latter includes the short, fine, and curly fur close to the body.
The fur is responsible for insulating the body, while guard hairs play a vital role in protecting the fur. The color of squirrels’ hair is hugely variable and can be grey, white, brown, black, red, or even yellow. It varies depending on the species.
What Kind Of Squirrels Are There?
If not everyone, at least a good number of people are familiar with squirrels. These rodents are abundant in many continents, with only Australia being an exception. For those who are avid, you might have noticed that squirrels are different.
The world records over 200 species of squirrels. To mention a few, we have American red, white, black, fox, pygmy, grey, albino, arctic ground, Richardson, Douglas, mountain tree, northern flying, southern, and franklin squirrels, etc.
All these squirrels are narrowly classified into three categories, including ground, tree, and flying squirrels.
Now you know that the word squirrel incorporates many more critters than just the tree squirrels we see scampering and leaping through branches from trees in our backyards.
Size/Weight/Lifespan Average Of Squirrels
Since the types of squirrels in the world are exceedingly variable, their sizes also differ significantly. For instance, among the largest squirrels in the world, we have Indian giant and black giant squirrels.
The Indian giant tends to grow up to one meter from head to tail and can weigh more than 1.8kgs. The giant black Squirrel isn’t inferior either; its head to body length varies between 35-50cm and a tail length of 50-60cm and weighs above 1.5kgs.
The African pygmy is the smallest squirrel species weighing around 10g and grows up to 7-15 cm in length.
An average squirrel, such as the grey squirrel, weighs between 0.45-0.70kgs, and it grows up to 38-52cm long and an additional tail length ranging between 15-24cm.
Wild squirrels are threatened by the harsh environment, which only reduces their lifespan to between 5-10 years. In contrast, pet squirrels live longest, with an average life length of 10-18 years or even more.
Squirrel Diet And Habitat: Where Squirrels Live?
Squirrels also have their homes. For example, as the name implies, tree squirrels are abundant in wooded areas since their preferred home is on trees. They build nests on trees.
Moreover, from the name, ground squirrels live underground. They dig burrows in hillsides, low berms, or sometimes dig vertically on a flat surface. This is where they live, breed, mate, raise young ones, and store food.
On the other hand, flying squirrels inhabit deciduous and coniferous forests and woodlands. They establish their homes in woodpecker holes, abandoned bird or squirrel nests, snags, or nest boxes. Squirrels are mainly nut-eating species and therefore are distributed to vast areas.
Diet of Squirrel
A squirrel diet is of great concern among many squirrel owners, who believe that squirrels eat nuts only. Thinking nuts to be the only food source for these charming little furballs is very far from the truth.
Squirrel diet varies substantially, as they have a vast number of foods edible to them. Nuts are their first-choice food, but they also eat vegetables, fruits, insects, and mealworms.
Nuts come in different varieties, and a good number of them are edible to squirrels. So, if you want to surprise your Squirrel with nuts, you can buy nuts such as pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, roasted pumpkin nuts, or butternuts.
Some nuts like pecans are highly nutritious and have a considerable impact on the health of a squirrel. Nuts form the most extensive composition in a squirrel’s diet, and they can be eaten every day.
Fruits And Veggies
Squirrels eat fruits and vegetables with enthusiasm. More often, we receive guest squirrels in our gardens as they come to search for vegetables or fruits.
They feast on blueberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, cranberries, papaya, apricot, pears, strawberries, grapefruit, cherries, peaches, and pomegranates, etc.
Additionally, squirrels eat a variety of vegetables including, turnip greens, chicory, dandelion greens, zucchini, parsley, green beans, etc.
Most types of foods that squirrels eat are fruits, nuts, and vegetables, but they can also eat other foods like bird eggs, birds, mice, baby birds, bread, and worms.
Rats, lizards, small snakes, chicken eggs, bird foods, and cat foods are also suitable for squirrels.
Habits of Squirrel
Squirrels express a pattern of behaviors, and they repeat them regularly. If someone asks you what squirrels are famous for, what would be your response? I’m sure you have something to tell.
These animals are fond of scurrying from branches to branches, which isn’t new to most people. But is that all about squirrels? Absolutely not!
Maybe you aren’t familiar with squirrels’ behavior or reproduction, and you want to explore it. That’s a great concern; I have explained the two parameters below.
The Behavior Of The Squirrel
Here, we would like to know the Squirrel’s way of behaving. For this section, we will discuss the most common behaviors shown by squirrels in general.
Squirrels are geniuses in scatter-hoarding. Two behaviors are displayed by a squirrel in scatter-hoarding; catching and recovery.
In catching, a squirrel collects food and carries it with the mouth to a hiding spot. The Squirrel digs a hole with its forepaws, puts the food inside and covers it with dirt.
Sometimes a squirrel will hide food below leaf litter instead of involving itself in the tedious work of digging a hole and burying it.
In recovery, a squirrel locates the places it hid the food with foraging behavior. After recovering the food, these animals may eat or choose to rehide it.
Squirrels tend to move about in different places, searching for food. They can obtain their food from the ground or on trees.
Squirrels eat the foraged food or hide them in secure places (scatter hoarding) and use them later.
A squirrel will communicate to another squirrel through vocalizing. That’s how squirrels communicate with each other. Also, a squirrel can make a sound to signal others that there is a predator around.
Squirrels also want to stay clean and free of parasites, and that’s why they usually groom. They show this behavior by licking or biting the body and scratching it with front or hind limbs.
Mostly, squirrels join together with other squirrels during friendly grooming, mating, or fighting.
Squirrels are pretty alert, especially in the wild, because so many animals seek them for food. A squirrel can hide somewhere and stare at another animal to learn its intention. This time, it doesn’t produce any noise but remains alert.
Reproduction Of The Squirrel
Squirrels are ready for mating when they reach one year old. The males charm a mate by expressing their exceptional acrobatic tree skills to the female in estrus. That means that they engage in a mating chase.
The winning male gets the privilege to mate the female and father her offspring. The female then gestates for about 40 days, and then births live young ones.
Most squirrel species have two mating seasons; in later winter (usually from late Feb, and this can persist until May) and at the end of spring to late summer.
Male squirrels have no business raising the young ones; they go their way after mating. A female can have 1-2 liters per year, each litter consisting of 2-5 babies or more.
The mother nurses her babies alone until they become fully independent. The young squirrels then leave the mother’s nest to live independently and look for other squirrels to mate after their maturation.
8 Other Facts
We have not yet exhausted the facts about squirrels; I told you they are plenty. But please don’t give up reading; the ones remaining are pretty interesting. See them below.
It is interesting to know that squirrels can climb power lines and poles without being shocked. And how does that happen? Just dare touch a power line and tell me if you love the result. Lol! I’m just kidding.
So, why are these creatures not electrocuted? Squirrels often walk through the power lines and do not get electrocuted because the electricity is always seeking its way towards the ground, a term referred to as earthing.
Squirrels are not directly or indirectly touching the ground, and therefore, the currents cannot flow through their bodies.
Squirrels Front Teeth Never Stop Growing
Looking at a squirrel’s teeth, you will realize that the four front teeth are extremely long. These teeth increase about six inches a year. They continue to grow throughout a squirrel’s life to prevent wear down from their ceaseless gnawing characteristic.
So then, it’s always a good thing for squirrels to gnaw. And this helps to keep their teeth sharp and in the right size and shape. Imagine if the teeth are only growing and a squirrel doesn’t indulge in gnawing?
About Squirrel Tail
Squirrels are well known to shake their tail from time to time. What benefit does tail shaking have, or do squirrels do it for fun?
A squirrel will primarily shake its tail to send a word of warning to other squirrels about a predator or dangerous situation. A female can also show this behavior to attract a potential male for mating.
Squirrels also shake their tails to let predators know they have seen it and are ready to defend themselves or their territory.
These critters also express their frustration by exhibiting the same behavior. Frustration causes a squirrel to waggle the tail, and this is called venting their exasperation.
Also, the tail helps to balance the squirrel as it jumps from tree to tree or the fluffy tail can act as a blanket in cold weather.
Have Different Survival Methods
Squirrels have several tricks that allow them to survive in the wild, a place full of predators and food competition.
Squirrels are experts in scatter-hoarding, so they tend to have ample food supply throughout the year.
Moreover, these animals try to stay safe by eavesdropping on birds to inform them about the safety in the environment. Birds become very noisy after they detect a threat in the environment.
Likewise, squirrels team up against a snake predator to mob it and keep them off with bushy tails. They even go ahead to chew up the snake’s skin, rubbing it on their fur as a way of confusing the snake as it tries to sniff them out.
Ability Through the Winter
Winter is characterized by hunger, but squirrels have plenty of hoarded food, so they rarely go hungry.
As winter approaches, these rodents spend most of their time gathering food and storing them in safe places.
Additionally, the winter season is freezing, so squirrels depend on their body heat to survive. Different squirrels apply different winter survival tools for increased longevity.
For instance, ground squirrels are hibernating during this season. Moreover, some species tend to change their fur for additional warmth physically.
But for most squirrels they accumulate their body fat stores in Autumn and depend on their nests for protection. Adult squirrels often nest together in winter to warm each other.
Distribution of the Squirrels
Squirrel’s population is growing tremendously, and they are present on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
You can imagine that from over 200 species of squirrels, these rodents are utterly absent in Antarctica. Australia has petaurids which most people confuse them to be squirrels.
Red squirrels are widespread in Europe and Asia, specifically in the UK, Japan, Ireland, Scotland, etc.
Grey squirrels are so many in North America and Europe. They are in most areas of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Columbia, and Italy. They are also increasing numerically in South Africa.
Overrated as Meteorologists
Squirrels understand and know how to predict the change of seasons, and that’s why they always prepare for winter.
Such ability creates huge curiosity for researchers, but the ground squirrels have been overrated as a meteorologist. For instance, marmots are popular weather forecasts in Canada and the United States.
However, their meteorological skills are a bit overrated, but the truth is that their success rate is only around 37%.
In the wild, squirrels are surrounded by hundreds of predators, including snakes. That’s why a wild squirrel’s life remains unpredictable because they can die at any time.
Fortunately, it’s interesting to know that squirrels are resistant to venom; they remain fine even after a snake bite. These rodents also rarely die after eating a poisonous mushroom. Let’s see why.
Snakes often hunt the baby ground squirrels when they’re very young. Therefore, adult squirrels never spare these foes; they play smart to defend and protect their young ones.
Snakes rarely attack adult squirrels because of their skilled defence and have robust immunity to snake venom. They are proficient at avoiding snake strikes. There is a protein in squirrels’ blood that makes them immune to snake venom.
Squirrels are fond of foraging mushrooms, and they can eat the poisonous ones without showing any side effects. It’s okay for a squirrel to eat the mushroom; they are adapted to eating any mushroom, both the wild and store-bought variety.
There are over 20% poisonous mushrooms and 1% deadly, and they’re no longer a threat to squirrels as these animals are resistant to mushroom poison.
Being in the wild for a long time and eating mushrooms from time to time is the reason behind their immunity.
What to feed squirrels?
We don’t have a diet more special for pet squirrels than what they eat in the wild. What the wild Squirrel eats is what a pet squirrel also needs.
Squirrels are omnivores and are not picky eaters. Thankfully, they have a lot of food varieties that they can eat. Their most popular foods are vegetables, shelled and unshelled nuts, seeds, and fruits.
Squirrels will inhabit many places like tropical rainforests and semi-arid deserts. They avoid staying in arid areas and high polar regions.
A land with shelter trees and nuts also makes a suitable habitat for squirrels. We can see that most squirrels prefer to be in wooded areas.
Squirrel food list?
The satisfying foods for squirrels are nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, etc. The recommended fruits to feed a squirrel include apricot, papaya, pineapple, cranberries, cantaloupe, etc.
We have chicory, parsley, radishes, turnip greens, and dandelion greens, etc., for the veggies Baby squirrels rely on their mother’s milk until they can confidently start chewing food. Both juvenile and adult squirrels have a standard diet.
How much do squirrels eat in a day?
The correct proportion of food to offer a squirrel is 5-10% of body weight. For example, a grey squirrel consumes about 40-80g of food, equivalent to 10% of its body weight.
Red squirrels require 18-20g of food daily, representing approximately 5% of their body weight.
With all the knowledge you have now about squirrel facts and habits, this gives you an excellent chance to associate well with squirrels because you fully understand them.
The article was a bit longer, but I have summarized some general facts that you shouldn’t forget:
- We have more than 200 species of squirrels, but they all fall under three groups only, including ground, tree, and flying squirrels.
- A squirrel doesn’t die out of snakebite; they have a strong immunity towards snake venom and poisonous mushrooms.
- Squirrels have a diverse diet; they eat various foods such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
- All continents of the world have squirrels except Australia and Antarctica. The petauridae in Australia are not true squirrels.
- Squirrels display various winter survival tricks, and this enables them to live longer. Some squirrels hibernate, others bulk up fats in the body, and some nest together for warmth.
- The most common behaviors for squirrels are scatter-hoarding, grooming, interaction, alertness, and vocalizing.