Your Wild Birds Guide


Flying Squirrels, Red Squirrels, Grey Squirrels, Black Squirrels:
Knowing Squirrel Behaviour Helps




 Let's Begin With A List of Questions to Answer:

1.    Flying squirrels are like other North American squirrels: Their behaviour defined!

2.    What is their motivator in living near us and visiting our bird feeders?

3.    What different types of squirrels are there and do they cause distinctive issues?

4.    What do they like to eat?

5.    What is the problem with squirrels at bird feeders?


1.    North American Squirrels: Their Behaviour Defined!

If we talk about one, we will generally have covered them all.


“Their social structures, memories, and critical thinking skills are complex…”             
                      From National Geographic


We are dealing with a shrewd thief!

Many tactics have been employed over time to deter squirrels from reaching a bird feeder.

And many have seemed successful.

But many efforts that seem successful at first, have proved failures, as this persistent little animal works out a way to foil human effort.



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List of “Good to Know” Behaviour Traits of Squirrels

Squirrels of all kinds cache their food, to be eaten when times are lean.


One study, recently published in the journal, Royal Society Open Science, shared that squirrels have organizational skills.


They stash their nuts according to quality, variety, and maybe preference too. Researchers have named this behaviour "chunking."


Scientists have also discovered that squirrels flick their tales to communicate various emotional responses and warnings. They also verbalize various sounds, sometimes in conjunction with tale flicks to convey different messages.


They have one or two litters per year. Each litter can have between 1-7 babies. Babies are born naked and helpless. The young will not leave the nest until they are nearly full grown and can take care of themselves.


2.     What is Their Motivator in Living Near Us and Visiting Our Bird Feeders?

This may seem like a redundant question but, we sometimes forget that these little animals are trying to survive, just like all other wild animals.

The western gray squirrel is an exception as it tries hard to avoid humans.

Imagine if all squirrels shared this behaviour!

This series on keeping squirrels out of bird feeders, would not have had to be written! ;-)

Other types of squirrels live in our cities, towns and beside our country homes.



We have persuaded them to live near us, you know:

By offering places for them to build their homes.


By providing buffet tables, with a broad variety of food, sometimes unintentionally!


And we afford protection from their natural predators, because other animals that would eat squirrels do not want to encounter us.

And they will not refuse these gifts of life we provide even though they are given unintentionally!



Who are a Squirrel’s Predators?

Foxes, coyotes, wildcats, weasels, wolves, snakes, hawks and owls.

No wonder they choose to deal with us instead!

We take care of 3 of their 4 basic needs of life, food, housing, safety and the fourth, water which we often furnish that too.

Squirrels regularly indulge themselves in our bird baths.





3.    What Different Types of Squirrels are there? Do They Cause Distinctive Issues?

In North America there are 5 different types of squirrels.

Red Squirrels
Fox Squirrel
Black Squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel & Western Gray Squirrel
Flying Squirrels

The first four species of squirrels in the list above are diurnal, meaning “of or during the day”.

The fifth type of squirrel the flying squirrel is nocturnal, meaning “active during the night”.

Because this one is busy at night, we miss seeing it eat at our feeders.

Then in the morning we notice our bird food has been eaten.

Bird seed and nectar can disappear this way.



There are 5 Types of Squirrels in North America



What Type of Habitat Do They Live In?

Most squirrels in North America live in forested areas.

Not necessarily heavily forested either.

They build their homes in live and dead trees. (Another very good reason to consider keeping dead trees on your property. Here is another reason, or two, or three for preserving dead trees.)



Are Flying Squirrels Real?


This information is provided about flying squirrels because:


1.    Many of us do not know very much about them.
2.   Some people, even deny their existence!


If you did not believe they exist, get ready to be surprised!

Because, exist they do.




3 Quick Facts

! Flying squirrels do not actually fly, but glide. For simplicity sake, they have a membrane on both sides of their body between their front and back legs, which provides their lift. (There are variations among different types and sizes.)

! They can glide 10 to 30 miles per hour. (That’s fast, with no wings!)

! One researcher measured horizontal flying squirrel glides between 3.2 to 25 meters or 10.5 to 82 feet!



More About Flying Squirrels


There are two types of gliding squirrels in North America, the northern flying squirrel and the southern flying squirrel, with many sub species within each one.

Both types are strictly nocturnal. (That is the reason many people know little or nothing about them.)



Watch these "sky" squirrels in action in this excellent video from Canadian Geographic.



Where do They Live?

The Northern Type Live:


- in patchy ranges throughout Canada from coast to coast

- southeast Alaska

- ranging also into California and Yosemite Valley

- New England and Pennsylvania

- two sub-species live in southern Appalachian Mountains, the Carolina and the Virginia northern flying squirrel


The Southern Types Live:


- in northeastern United States and south into Florida

- from Minnesota to Texas

- one species of southern type lives in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California




How To Tell the Northern from the Southern?


It is very difficult to tell the two species apart, as they are almost identical in colour from light brown to grey.

The northern type has a white belly, as a differentiating factor and is slightly smaller.

A man in Minnesota shared this video below about how he feeds the ones that live on his property.


Northern Gliding Squirrel Feeding Station

4.    What Do Our Daytime Squirrels and Nighttime Squirrels Eat?

Primarily herbivores, vegetable matter (One veggie I have witnessed squirrels eating is, safflower seed sprouts under my bird feeders, very nutritious!), nuts and seeds of all varieties, in the shell and shelled, peanuts being a particular favourite, tree buds, berries and hummingbird feeder nectar.

Even though squirrels are considered herbivores they sometimes eat insects, small invertebrates, small snakes, eggs or nestlings.



5.    What are the Problems With Squirrels at Bird Feeders?

Eat far too much seed and quickly, making it necessary to fill feeders more often.


Which creates added expense having to purchase large amounts of food.


Spread disease at feeders. Although there is little evidence of disease from squirrels being passed to birdlife or humans, it is advisable to take precautions when handling feeders and keeping them clean.


If flying squirrels are eating your seed or drinking your hummingbird feeder nectar at night, then you might be puzzled about where your bird food is going.

Of course there are other culprits. Discover what they are here.

If you want to know for sure what is happening at night, setup a  Birdcam and it will show you for sure.



Resources used for this article:


https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-squirrels-fly-37372905/
https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/82/4/1026/2372735
https://www.whatdosquirrelseat.org/where-do-flying-squirrels-live/
http://www.simcoereformer.ca/2013/03/31/for-the-love-of-flying-squirrels
https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/animal-facts-flying-squirrel
http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Glaucomys_volans/
http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/5-types-of-north-american-squirrels.html
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-squirrels-fly-37372905/


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