The grey squirrel was introduced to Great Britain in the mid-19th century. There is now an estimated population of 2 million making them much more common than the native red squirrel.

Daily Life

Photo of a squirrel drey in a treeThe grey squirrel is diurnal and most active at dawn and dusk, searching for available food.  Compared with the red squirrel, it spends more time foraging and feeding on the ground than in the trees.  It is, however, very agile in the trees and can run along slender twigs, leaping from tree to tree.  The long, muscular hind legs and short front legs help it to leap.  The hind feet, longer than the front, are double-jointed to help the squirrel scramble head first up and down the tree trunk.  Sharp claws are useful for gripping bark and the tail helps the squirrel to balance.  If a squirrel should fall, it can land safely from heights of about 9m (30ft).  The grey squirrel can leap more than 6 metres!

Squirrels have good eyesight and often sit upright on a vantage point to look around them. They have a keen sense of smell too!

The grey squirrel builds itself a nest, or drey, about the size of a football, made of twigs, often with the leaves still attached.  It is built fairly high in a tree and lined with dry grass, shredded bark, moss and feathers.  A summer drey is usually quite flimsy and lodged among small branches.  Sometimes the squirrel may make its nest in a hollow trunk or take over a rook's nest, constructing a roof for it.  A squirrel may build several dreys.

Although grey squirrels have a wide range of calls, they communicate mainly through their tails, using them as a signalling device; they twitch their tails if they are uneasy or suspicious.  Regular routes are scent-marked with urine and glandular secretions.  Squirrels identify each other, and food, by smell.

Read More: Winter

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