Going Squirrelly

Grey Squirrel on Bridge in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Grey Squirrel on wooden bridge over my stream (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Winter is the time of year when we fill our bird feeders with all sorts of seeds and nuts, and sit back to watch the variety of birds that flock to our back yards to indulge in the smorgasbord that awaits them. But what is that acrobat hanging upside-down from our feeder with fistfuls of food bulging from his (or her) cheeks? Why it’s none other than the common Eastern gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, a four legged contortionist capable of climbing down trees head first in its quest for food. 

Eastern gray squirrel at my feeder in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Eastern gray squirrel snacking at my feeder (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Squirrels are members of the Sciuridae family of small to medium sized rodents, including chipmunks, woodchucks and prairie dogs. Known for their soft, bushy tails and large brown eyes, different types of squirrels are found throughout the world; from vast tropical jungles to highly populated cities. Because they are predominantly herbivores, squirrels are able to forage for their diet of nuts, seeds and small insects in almost any habitat. However, in the cold New England climate these foods aren’t always readily available in the wild, which explains why squirrels (both Eastern gray and his smaller cousin the American red squirrelTamiasciurus hudsonicus) make frequent-and often unwanted-visits to your bird feeder!

Red Squirrel dining with the birds in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Red Squirrel dining with the birds at my feeder (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The Eastern gray squirrel, is a tree dweller that builds its nest of leaves and twigs (called a drey) high up in the branches, although they may sometimes takeover a bird’s nest or find shelter inside a tree trunk if the opportunity presents itself. Mostly active during the day, they can easily climb and leap from branch to branch to escape predators. In order to survive harsh winters, the gray squirrel hoards large quantities of food for the future, burying it in various spots nearby. They have a fantastic memory (Boy, do I wish they could bottle that chemical!) that enables them to locate and retrieve all their stashes throughout the winter, though sometimes their buried seeds sprout into plants ultimately ruining their plans of a feast.

And that leads me to an important benefit of our local squirrels; they actually help to restore our natural environment by planting the acorns of oak trees, the nuts of chestnut trees, and the seeds of many native wildflowers.  Even if by accident, these busy little critters are helping to create a diverse community right in our own back yards. And if that’s not enough for you to cut them a little slack, consider their “cuteness factor” . . . a phenomenon that has inspired many adorable stuffed animals  ♥♥♥

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Comments

  1. All too often, we forget that all critters have their necessary place in nature, cuteness notwithstanding. Thanks for an informative article.

    • Thank you, Jean! In a world full of chemical sprays and traps, we could all benefit by considering if the end justifies the means. Are a few seeds consumed by a roving squirrel really going to break our bank account? LOL! Happy New Year!

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