The UK is home to two squirrel species: red squirrels and grey squirrels. Grey squirrels were originally introduced from North America, but are now the most common species in England and Wales.
What’s the difference between red and grey squirrels?
- Coat colour - Grey squirrel colours can vary from grey to black, but they can also have red-tipped coats. Red squirrels' coat colour can vary from the classic rusty red to much darker colours like grey and black, so their coat colours can look very similar.
- Ear tufts - Red squirrels have ear tufts, whereas grey squirrels don't. However, reds will moult these tufts in the summer.
- Size - Red squirrels are much smaller than greys, but a young grey squirrel may be a similar size to an adult red squirrel.
- Tails - The hairs on grey squirrel tails have bands of colour, each with a white tip. Red squirrel tails can vary in colour, but their tail hairs don't have these bands.
Where do grey squirrels live?
Squirrels mostly live in broadleaf woodlands containing oak, beech, sweet chestnut and hazel. They can also be found in parks, gardens and urban areas where there are suitable trees.
Squirrels make a spherical nest out of twigs and leaves, typically found in the forks between branches at least 6 metres off the ground. They'll also use tree cavities and occasionally nest inside roof cavities.
What do grey squirrels eat?
Grey squirrels mainly eat seeds and plant buds, shoots, fungi and flowers, but will also eat insects and birds' eggs. They'll also take food from bird feeders in gardens.
Squirrels will retrieve nuts they've buried mainly using their sense of smell, but they also have some form of a mental map of locations. Many of the nuts and seeds buried aren't rediscovered, which helps the growth of new plants.
Sick or injured squirrels
Be careful when approaching wild animals, as they can scratch and bite when frightened - particularly if they're injured.
Usually, squirrels will have two litters of young a year - one between February and March and the other between June and July.