Archive for January 31st, 2011


Little Red appreciates the new Blue Jay feeder too. Every afternoon, once the main crush of Blue Jays has moved on, this little red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) arrives to enjoy his share of the treats. He can reach the feeder very conveniently by dropping from a nearby branch and scrambles back home the same way. In the photo above, he (she?) is keeping a wary eye on me as I stand at my kitchen window.

We don’t have the larger grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) that were more than abundant at our former Toronto-area home here, and I don’t miss them one bit. Little Red is a cute little guy though, and it is nice to see him. These smaller squirrels don’t seem to gather together in large numbers in the manner of their outsized kin. Red squirrels prefer coniferous forests, with their abundant supply of cones, but are adaptable and widespread.


It’s common to hear a red squirrel expressing his annoyance at an intruder with angry chattering. They’re feisty individuals, and will chase away much larger interlopers, but I’ve noticed Little Red avoids the Blue Jay hoards. While grey squirrels stick to nuts and seeds, red squirrels have a more varied diet, and enjoy a range of food items that includes insects, bird eggs and even young rabbits and frogs, and fruits and mushrooms. Probably other small creatures don’t find Little Red as cute as I do! In the fall, red squirrels cache food to help them make it through the winter. In conifer forests, you may find piles of cones assembled by a red squirrel. I found this cache, in the photo above, in a forest with many Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris). Red squirrels don’t hibernate, but during severe weather, they may go into a state of torpor for an extended period.


During breeding season, red squirrels build large, grassy nests formed into round balls in the branches of trees. In winter, however, a more secure home is need, and a cavity in a tree offers a snug, dry spot to spend the night. When moving firewood we had purchased recently, I came across a split log with stuffing hanging out. I carefully removed the stuffing and found a cavity of about 3 inches in depth behind the opening. It probably served as the winter home of a red squirrel. The stuffing was soft and clean and grassy. It looked like a comfortable winter hideout. Hopefully, the squirrel had moved on to a summer nest before the tree was cut down for firewood.


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