Our furry little tree squirrel friends are just one part of a large family of squirrels (Sciuridae). Did you know that tree squirrels are related to prairie dogs, woodchucks, flying squirrels, and ground squirrels? Squirrels and their relatives can be found all across the world such as North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe. Let’s start briefly with squirrel classification and then on to the first of many interesting facts about squirrels.
Where Did the Word Squirrel Come From
Did you already know the word squirrel came from the old Greek word skiouros? The ancient Greeks loved their bushy tails and skiouros means “shadow tail.” The Greeks observed squirrels placing their bushy tails raised up against the backs and over their heads which cast a shadow over their eyes.
Squirrel in Many Languages
- English – Squirrel
- Spanish– Ardilla
- Italian – Scoiattolo
- German – Eichhörnchen
- French – Écureuil
- Polish – Wiewiórka
- Portuguese – Esquilo
What Do Squirrels Like to Eat
Besides their well-known love of nuts, our bushy-tailed buddies also love to eat small insects, roots, tree bark, leaves, and acorns. What kind of squirrels love to eat bark?
Squirrels will usually collect and bury quite a few of their meals all year long, especially around Fall. When you notice them gathering their nuts right before the cold winter months, it is because they are getting ready for winter. Squirrels try and bury enough food to last them through the winter. Check out this article for more information on what squirrels like to eat.
Did you already know the word squirrel came from the old Greek word skiouros? The ancient Greeks loved their bushy tails and skiouros means “shadow tail.”
Many of us picture squirrels as cute brown critter with a fluffy tail that loves to eat acorns. Although, members of the squirrel family look quite different. Some squirrels are darker, like the Eastern Grey Squirrel, and some have white stripes on their back like the Indian Palm Squirrels.
3 Types of Squirrels
There are over 200 different kinds of squirrels throughout the world, categorized into three types: tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels. Now that is a groovy squirrel fact.
A flying squirrel has a unique stretchy skin called the patagium that allows the squirrel to seem like it is flying through the air. The squirrel really flying, rather gliding through the air.
Flying squirrels are very small and can fit into the palm of your hand, yet they are able to leap 150 feet. A spectacular accomplishment for a critter so small.
A squirrel the Size of a Teacup?
Did you know that there is a Squirrel just a little bit bigger than a teacup? The smallest in the squirrel family (Sciuridae) is the African pygmy squirrel, and when fully grown is only about 4 inches or 10 centimeters tall!
How Long Is That Squirrel?
There is a giant squirrel called the Alpine Marmot which can be up to 29 inches tall (73 centimeters). Wow, that is amazing! Alpine Marmots are fantastic diggers. They can easily dig their way through soil even a pickaxe may have trouble getting through. Even more interesting is 9 months out of the year they are in hibernation.
Not all squirrels hibernate. If you would like to learn more about hibernation, check out this article, Do Squirrels Hibernate?
How Are They Similar
- Squirrels have big front teeth. Did you know that squirrel incisors (the two top and bottom front teeth) grow throughout their lives? Wow, can you imagine if our teeth continued to grow?
- These cute furry critters also have excellent eyesight and big, shiny eyes.
- They also have long nails or claws to help them climb.
Adult squirrels have excellent vision, but did you know that baby squirrels are blind and deaf at birth? Most squirrels usually open their eyes around 4-6 weeks of age, and their ears usually open around 3-4 weeks old.
How Many Babies
Many mother squirrels can have two to eight babies at once. These young ones must also depend on their caring mother for food and drink (mostly milk). For the first few weeks, momma squirrel feeds her babies every 2-4 hours. After a few months, the squirrels can hunt for food on their own.
Baby Squirrels are Called Kittens
Baby squirrels are called kittens, the same as cats. Kittens are born twice a year. Usually, mommas give birth in the springtime around March and in the summertime around July.
Squirrels will usually start looking for or building a nest when they start to mate, which is when they are about a year old. If you would like to learn more about squirrel nests, check out this article, The Ultimate Guide to Squirrel Nests.