What Do Squirrel Nests Look Like? – The Ultimate Guide

If you’re curious about what squirrel nests look like, you’ve come to the right place! Squirrels are one of the most common animals in the world, and they are often seen scurrying around in parks and gardens. This guide will take you through the different types of squirrel nests, what materials they use to build them, and where to look for them. It will also provide some insight into the behavior of squirrels and how they use their nests. So, if you’ve ever wondered what a squirrel nest looks like, read on to find out!

squirrel nests - three baby squirrels

What are the Two Types of Squirrel Nests?

  • Leaf Nests: Built at least 20 feet up in trees, often in a fork of a large branch for stability. Noticeably larger than bird nests, these are constructed using leaves.
  • Tree Cavity Dens: Located in hollows of trees, sometimes in spaces initially made by woodpeckers. They offer excellent protection from elements like rain, wind, and snow, making them a preferred choice for squirrels.

Do Squirrels Make Nests?

Not all squirrels make nests. While some species of tree squirrels do build nests, others don’t. Flying squirrels, for example, typically live in tree cavities or dens that they share with other animals. Ground squirrels, on the other hand, prefer to make burrows underground rather than nests.

The type of nest or shelter chosen by a squirrel will depend on the species, habitat, and individual preferences.

squirrel nests - nest high in the tree forks
squirrel nest

Where Do Squirrels Make Nests?

When selecting a location to build their nest, tree squirrels favor spots where they can use natural supports, like vines that have become knotted into nests or fork junctions where several branches meet the trunk.

Do Squirrels Nest in the Ground?

Some squirrels, like ground squirrels, build underground burrows rather than tree nests.

Why Do Squirrels Build Nests?

Squirrels build nests to shelter themselves from the elements and predators and store food, such as nuts and acorns, to eat later when food is scarce.

squirrel nests - nest high in the tree fork

squirrel nest

Do Male Squirrels Build Nests?

Yes, male squirrels do build nests. This instinctual behavior is driven by their natural urge to create a place of safety and shelter for themselves.

Why Do Squirrels Build Nests in High Trees

Why do squirrels build nests in the first place? They need shelter for themselves and to keep their babies warm and safe. Nests are built high in a tree, usually 20 feet high in a tree fork or nook. A tree fork or nook serves as a solid, supportive base for the nest.

Squirrel Nest vs Bird Nest?

A squirrel tree nest looks a lot like a bird’s nest. You can tell a squirrel tree nest from a bird’s nest because they are much larger than a typical bird nest. They are usually 20 feet (6 m) high up in a fork or nook of trees.

Do Squirrels Destroy Bird Nests?

Squirrels can potentially destroy bird nests, but they don’t typically do so deliberately. In some cases, squirrels may inadvertently damage nests while attempting to feed on insects or other nearby food sources.

Furthermore, squirrels may damage bird nests by chewing through them to reach the food inside. Also, red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) have been observed engaging in nest predation of eggs or nestlings. However, this is not a widespread problem for squirrels to cause harm to bird nests in some instances.

squirrel nests - nest high in the tree branch
squirrel nest

What Does A Squirrel Nest Look Like?

A squirrel nest, or “drey, “is the cozy home of a tree-dwelling squirrel species. The nest is usually in a high tree branch but can also be found in a bush or a hollowed tree trunk. A squirrel may sometimes build its nest on the ground in a brush pile or under a fallen log if no suitable trees are available.

The drey can range from 10 to 30 inches wide and 12 to 18 inches deep. It typically consists of a large ball of leaves, twigs, grass, and other vegetation tightly bound together. A squirrel nest consists of an outer layer of leaves tightly woven to form a dome shape.

Nesting Materials

Nest building is tedious work. A squirrel gathers materials and piles them together with its mouth or paws to transport them to the nest.

squirrel nests - red squirrel carrying nesting material
squirrel carrying nesting material

What Does the Inside of a Squirrel Nest Look Like?

In the wild, nests are built out of branches, twigs, dried leaves, and bark strips. The nest is lined with softer materials like moss, grass, feathers, and other soft materials to line their nests for extra comfort. Squirrels living in urban areas use stuffing from items like outdoor cushions, dog beds, and blankets as nesting material.

The entrance hole is typically located on one side of the nest and is small enough to keep out predators. Inside the nest, squirrels may have a few storage compartments to store their food.

The inside of the nest is usually warm and cozy, providing a safe place for squirrels to rest and raise their young.

squirrel nests - photo of a drey
nest photo courtesy of @sandy_grant777 IG

Building – Squirrel Nests in Trees

First, the squirrel builds a skeleton of a nest by weaving together sticks and twigs. Like an artist, the squirrel weaves the outer skeleton shell into the shape of a sphere paying close attention not to leave any gaps in the foundation. The outside shell of the nest is lined with twigs, moss, and leaves.

Squirrel Nest Building for Insulation

The outside layers of twigs, moss, and leaves provide stability. Surprisingly, the nest (drey) is sturdy enough to withstand some predators and the elements of weather like high winds, hail, freezing rain, and snow. A squirrel can freeze to death if the nest is not well insulated.

squirrel nests - two squirrels hugging squirrel nests
Clara and Braveheart
courtesy of @CynthiaPeterson2015
on I
G

Do Squirrels Prefer a Tree Cavity Over a Nest?

A tree cavity, also called a den is preferable over a nest because they provide more protection from the weather.

A tree cavity is often created by a woodpecker, then abandoned and later claimed by a squirrel. Besides the crafty work of woodpeckers, Mother Nature’s fires, floods, and storms also form tree cavities.

squirrel den - tree cavity
tree cavity

Squirrels prefer a tree cavity or den. Baby squirrels born in leaf nests risk falling, being eaten, or orphaned. Leaf nests are very vulnerable to wind and rain. Weather can damage tree nests or send them tumbling to the ground.

tree cavity - squirrel looking out from tree cavity
squirrel in tree cavity (den)

Also, crows will tear apart the nest to steal the babies. Many babies end up on the ground before the momma squirrel can return to the nest.

Do Squirrels Share Nests?

Yes, squirrels will share nests, especially when the population of squirrels in an area is high. Sharing a nest helps to protect the squirrels from predators and provides warmth and shelter during extremely cold weather.

A female squirrel also shares her nest with her young.

How Many Squirrels Live in One Nest?

Most adult tree squirrels live independently unless they are raising their young and will share their nest with their babies.

Tree squirrels often nest together to keep warm if the temperature drops or during a severe cold snap. When nesting or grouped, squirrels form a “scurry.”

Squirrel Nesting Box

A squirrel nest box is constructed from wood. The ideal nesting box should be placed at least 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground but ideally around 20-30 ft.

Situate the entrance hole to face east or south, away from powerful winter winds. Avoid placing a nesting box in a dead tree because, over time, the tree could fall, cause harm to your squirrel family, and destroy the nesting box.

Squirrels adapt pretty readily to nest boxes. A squirrel will be more likely to call it home if it is filled with plenty of dry leaves, stuffing, upholstery batting, or blankets.

squirrel nesting box - baby squirrel looking out of nest box
baby looking out of squirrel nesting box

Predator Guard for Squirrel Nesting Box

When building or buying a squirrel nest box, choose one that has an inside shelf that sits right under the entrance hole. The inside shelf protects cats, snakes, and raccoons from getting inside the squirrel nest box.

Where Do Squirrels Go at Night?

During the evening, a squirrel’s sleeping habits are similar to ours. As a result, they are pretty silent. The squirrels nap, sleep or tend to their young in their nests at night. Their nest is their sanctuary.

squirrel nests
squirrel nest

Do Squirrels Come Back to the Same Nest?

Yes, squirrels typically come back to the same nest. This is because they have a very good memory and can remember where they have stored their food or built their nest.

Do Squirrels Build a New Nest Every Year?

Most squirrels do not need to build a new nest every year; however, red squirrels are known to build a new one yearly.

How Long Do Squirrels Use Their Nest?

Tree squirrels use the same nest for many years if the area remains safe. However, if the nest is damaged by bad weather or other animals, they will need to find a new one.

Do Squirrels Reuse Their Nests?

They often use the same nesting sites for years and may reuse old nests from previous seasons.

Squirrels are also known to build multiple nests in one area, making it easier for them to return to the same general area. In addition, squirrels will often mark the entrance of their nest with urine or scent glands, which helps them to recognize their nest as home.

It is important to note that if a squirrel is disturbed or threatened in its nest, it may move to a new nest to feel safer. Squirrels will also abandon a nest if food sources become scarce in the area or if there is too much human activity. However, if the conditions remain suitable, they can often return to the same nest year after year.

Do Squirrels Sleep in the Same Nest Every Night?

While other mammals, such as mice and rats, return to the same nest each night, it is not uncommon for a squirrel to sleep in a different location. Squirrels are very territorial, so they will look for new places to sleep if they know it is safe.

It is also normal for squirrels to change their sleeping locations when the weather turns cold, as they will want to find a place that is sheltered from the elements.

How Far Do Squirrels Roam from Their Nest?

The exact distance a squirrel will roam from its nest can vary greatly depending on the squirrel species, its age, and the availability of resources. Generally, however, squirrels tend to stay within a few hundred yards of their nests.

However, some species, such as fox squirrels, may have a home range of up to several miles. This is especially true of young squirrels, who are more likely to explore further away in search of new food sources. Additionally, if resources become scarce, squirrels may also roam further away to find food.

squirrel looking in the window
“Pez” courtesy of @radarwabbit on IG

Do Squirrels Have More Than One Nest?

Generally, they build multiple nests to move their babies in an emergency if the nest is threatened by a predator. Another reason for re-location is if the nest becomes infested with fleas. The backup nests are stored for extra food and a place to nap. They will also reuse nests they previously built.

Where Do Squirrels Go When it Rains?

During a downpour, squirrels seek refuge in their nests or dreys to avoid getting wet. When the winds are strong, they usually seek refuge in a hollow tree to avoid being thrown out of their homes and injured. During a light shower, the squirrel’s bushy tail can be flipped over the body and serve as an umbrella

tree cavity - squirrel sleeping in squirrel den
squirrel in tree cavity (den)

Final Thoughts on Squirrel Nests

Squirrels are fascinating to watch, and they never fail to entertain us. In fact, for many people, a squirrel may be the only wild animal they see every day. Take a look high in the trees to see how many squirrel nests you see. Have you ever noticed them before? Now that you know what to look for, you’ll be surprised at how many you find!

If you have any thoughts or suggestions about squirrel nests or would like to share a squirrel experience with us, we would be happy to hear from you. Please comment below or use our contact page to get in touch.

For more squirrel articles, check out the Kitty City Squirrels blog.

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4 Comments

  1. Great content and well put together! It’s hard for me to believe that Clara is all grown up and a mama herself in the same tree where this picture was taken.

  2. I had a bathing suit top left out overbite. It was torn up and parts had been torn apart. Did a squirrel do this for nest material

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