Johnny Magory - Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel – Iora Rua

Babies are called kittens in litter sizes of 2-3 twice a year. They are born blind and furless not becoming independent until approx. 3 months. On average they live up to 3 years in the wild but females can reach up to 6 years of age. They are not a very vocal species but will make chattering calls and stamp their tails making a chucking sound on wood and ground surfaces.

Their long bushy tail is equal to the length of the head and body combined and is used as a balance aid while climbing making them the most agile mammal in Ireland. Red squirrels will build nests called dreys of dried grasses and moss for lining and an outer layer of twigs attached to the main trunk of trees. They may use several different nests within tree branches or use the hollows of older tree trunks and larger branches.

Red squirrels eat pine and spruce seeds, acorns, berries, fungi, tree sap and bark. They forage all night in summer and early morning in late autumn and in winter. Red squirrels famously bury collected nuts and seeds in hoards which are shallow pits dug in soft ground. They do not hibernate but can remain in their nests for several days if the weather is bad, making only quick trips to a nearby hoards which are important to the ecosystem of forests as this activity spreads tree seeds over large areas at the vital time of Autumn.

They spend most of their active periods in the tree canopy while the grey squirrel, whose twice its size, stay foraging at ground level for much of the time. Unfortunately, the red squirrel will usually disappear from an area with grey as they spend longer on the ground foraging. The red’s hoards can be found, and their winter food source removed resulting in starvation.

However, the increasing number of pine martens are helping the red since the greys are easier for them to catch on the ground. Red squirrels use their tails as umbrellas when it’s raining. Watch our Wildlife Wednesday Video here for more fun facts