You might be familiar with the sounds of squirrels without knowing which animal is making the sound. There are 200 known species of squirrels, and all make various sounds. I often hear squirrels and wanted to share what their different calls mean.
Squirrels use sound to protect themselves and their territories. Their alarm calls are made up of screeches, rattles, barks, and snorts. The kuk, muk-muk, quaa, and quack sounds are used to show interest in mating.
Squirrels in North America are divided into three categories: Tree squirrels, flying squirrels, and ground squirrels. Most animals communicate through sound, and squirrels use various sounds to communicate with each other. They may appear small and quiet, but they are very vocal creatures.
The intensity of the noise varies by species. You will find that some species are more vocal than others and have their own specific set of identifiable sounds. The volume and type of sound depend on age, gender, and circumstance.
What Do The Sounds Of Squirrels Mean?
|Made by young squirrels or when mating
|Young calling for mother
Like many wild animals, squirrels will defend their territories and will not allow intruders in. They get angry when an intruder oversteps their boundary and will sound a warning. This warning is made up of rattling sounds and screeches.
The screeching sound that a squirrel uses is a way of threatening any intruders to leave the area.
Another sound a squirrel makes is the alarm or warning call. If a squirrel notices a predator in the vicinity, it will make a noise to signal the impending danger to other squirrels in the area.
The squirrel will first wave its tail to portray that it is alarmed. The type of sound made also distinguishes the kind of predator, telling others whether the predator is a land animal or an aerial predator.
When an attacker is nearby and approaching squirrel territory, a squirrel will start making warning calls, described as a series of barking calls. These sounds can be a ‘buzz,’ like a quick sound emitted through the nostrils. These sounds are very low-intensity and almost inaudible to ourselves.
The next warning sound made by the squirrel sounds like ‘kuk.’ The ‘kuk’ is a short bark made repeatedly. The ‘kuk’ is followed by the sound of ‘quaaa, a lower-intensity version of the quaa sound. The eastern gray squirrel can often be heard making these types of sounds.
The North American red squirrel prefers to make a ‘seet‘ and a ‘bark‘ as its alarm calls. While the barks are generally loud and have a high amplitude, the ‘seets’ are sounds with a high frequency but low amplitude.
Red squirrels often combine the seet and bark sounds, which usually start with the seet and end with a loud bark. Barks are preserved as a warning call for terrestrial predators like dogs and humans. ‘Seets and ‘seet-barks’ are mainly used for aerial predators.
Why Do Squirrels Squawk?
Squirrels may squawk for a variety of reasons. One common reason is to communicate with other squirrels in their vicinity. Squawking can serve as an alarm call to warn of potential dangers or predators. Additionally, squirrels might squawk during territorial disputes with other squirrels or animals.
This vocalization could also be a way for squirrels to express frustration, discomfort, or distress. Overall, squawking is a part of their natural communication repertoire to convey information and emotions to other squirrels and creatures in their environment.
Why Do Squirrels Scream?
Squirrels may scream as a response to feeling threatened, frightened, or in pain. When faced with a predator or a perceived danger, squirrels may emit a high-pitched scream as an alarm call to alert other squirrels in the area about the potential threat.
This is used to communicate the presence of danger and can help the squirrel group collectively respond to the situation, whether it’s by seeking safety or joining in to confront the threat.
Squirrels might also scream when they are injured, in distress, or experiencing pain. This can be a way for them to signal their distress to others, including potential predators, as a deterrent. Additionally, when squirrels are engaged in territorial disputes or encounters with each other, screaming is also used to establish dominance or boundaries.
Why Do Squirrels Bark?
Squirrels bark for several reasons, and it’s important to note that their “bark” sounds quite different from the bark of dogs. Squirrel barking is used for communication, and it serves various purposes:
- Warning Signals: One of the primary reasons squirrels bark is to alert other squirrels and animals in the vicinity about potential dangers or threats. When they spot a predator or something unusual, squirrels use a series of rapid, high-pitched barks to inform others of the situation.
- Territorial Communication: Squirrels are very territorial, and they may use barking to establish and defend their territories. When a squirrel enters another squirrel’s territory, the resident squirrel might bark to warn the intruder to leave.
- Social Interaction: Squirrels also communicate with each other through barking during social interactions. This can include interactions between family members or interactions with other squirrels in their group. Barking plays a role in establishing hierarchies, resolving conflicts, or simply maintaining group cohesion.
- Expressing Agitation: Squirrels often bark when they’re agitated, annoyed, or frustrated. This can happen when they encounter obstacles, experience competition for food, or face other challenges in their environment.
- Mating Season: During the mating season, male squirrels can often be heard barking to attract females and establish their presence to potential mates.
Why Do Squirrels Make A Crying Noise?
The crying noise of a squirrel is perceived as a distress call. If a squirrel has spotted a predator, they cry to warn others of danger.
Squirrels may also make a crying noise when hurt. Injuries to a squirrel will make them emit a crying sound.
Different species of squirrels make different sounds, but they do not always mean the same thing. Some species may make a crying sound when fighting over food.
Baby squirrels also emit a low cry when they are hungry and seek out their mother to come to feed them. This sound may mean that the young squirrels are alarmed about something and call out for their parents. Their cries are not that loud but can be heard by the mother if she is nearby.
What Sounds Do Baby Squirrels Make?
Baby squirrels have very distinct sounds. The sounds made vary depending on their age. However, very young squirrels tend to produce very soft and subtle tones.
They are barely audible, which serves as a way to keep them from attracting the attention of predators. When they are hungry and need to be fed, they call their mother with a ‘muk muk‘ sound. The sound is described as soft and puffy.
Newborn squirrels barely make any sound, but their vocals advance relatively fast with age. A baby squirrel can make a subtle squeak at three days old. At three weeks, it can growl to its mother when hungry, and at four weeks old, it can produce short screams.
When scared or alarmed, baby squirrels will make high-pitched shrill noises. These are of a higher frequency, so the message can pass further to reach their mother.
What Noise Does a Squirrel Make at Night?
There is only one species of squirrel that is active at night, the flying squirrel. They have skin flaps just behind their front legs that make them appear to fly. They don’t actually fly but glide from one tree to the next.
Flying squirrels are nocturnal, and are often seen at night. However, they tend to be much quieter than other squirrels.
They most notably produce high-pitched chirping sounds when communicating with each other. They are also capable of making ultrasonic sounds. These are sounds made at a very high frequency that humans cannot hear. The sound pitch is altered according to the circumstances and mood of the animal.
Do Squirrels Make Noise When Mating?
Male squirrels use sounds to signal to a female squirrel in estrus. Males imitate the sounds made by newly-born squirrels. As the male chases after the female in estrus, he emits a soft ‘muk muk‘ sound. This sound is meant to reassure the female that he is not threatening her.
When ready to mate, female squirrels produce the ‘kuks‘ and ‘quaa‘ sounds. They are described as a moan that signals she is ready for copulation. These sounds are made before and even after mating.
How do Squirrels Communicate?
Squirrels do not just use vocalizations when they want to pass a message to other squirrels. They also use different ways of communicating.
Squirrels chatter their teeth when they want to portray hostility. It is a warning sign for the threat to back off. The squirrel may attack and bite the intruder if the predator does not.
The second way of communicating is by wagging their tail. This can mean a couple of things, one of which is to indicate a predator’s presence. On other occasions, the squirrel may have found something good to eat and does not want to share it with other squirrels. It will wag its tail to signal to counterparts to stay away.
Squirrels will also stomp their feet. This is another warning to a predator, and shows that the squirrel is alert and ready to fight.
Why are Squirrels Considered a Nuisance?
Squirrels are better off living in their natural habitat than in our homes. There is nothing wrong with attracting them to the garden, but they can become very destructive if they infest your home. They can cause significant damage to your attic, and can also be very noisy. If you want some tips on how to get rid of pests in your home, I have written an article on this here.
Flying squirrels are most active at night and will likely give you a sleepless night should they find a haven in your home. They tend to move around a lot, and while normally quiet, seem to screech a lot when inside.
Squirrels in the home will often chirp or bark to communicate with other squirrels. The best thing to do in this case is to remove the squirrels. Squirrels are vocal creatures by nature and must be removed as soon as possible.
How Do You Know If You Have Squirrels In Your House?
If there are squirrels in your house, they will typically nest in the attic. Their noise will generally be the first you know they are there. If you hear scurrying noises or scratching, this may be your first indication that squirrels have started nesting up there. It may be a squirrel if you hear an animal gnawing, rubbing, or scraping sounds.
High-pitched squeaking sounds are the most common sounds from squirrels in your home. Squirrels will nest using various materials, including leaves, twigs, small branches, insulation, and anything else they can find in your attic.
Squirrels can also get into your walls, so you must ensure that all holes and openings are sealed up. Squirrels can damage the structure of your home, so you must do everything you can to stop them from coming in.
Can You Use Sound To Remove Squirrels From Your Home?
Some sounds can easily scare squirrels. When people have their homes infested with squirrels, there is a quick, easy, and, most importantly, cheap way of getting rid of them.
In most cases, squirrels are afraid of unfamiliar and loud sounds. You can use loud sounds like banging pots or pans to startle and drive them away. Additionally, the loud sound of music can scare squirrels and immediately force them to look for another place for shelter.
References And Further Reading
- “Mammals of North America” by Roland W. Kays and Don E. Wilson This comprehensive field guide provides information on various mammal species, including squirrels, and their behaviors, habitats, and sounds.
- “Squirrels of the World” by Richard W. Thorington Jr., Katie Ferrell, and Luke R. Dollar While focusing on squirrel diversity, this book may offer insights into their behavior and vocalizations.
- “The Natural History of Squirrels” by John Gurnell This book delves into the ecology, behavior, and interactions of squirrels, which could include information about their vocalizations.
- “The Secret Life of Squirrels” series by Nancy Rose While these books are more on the whimsical side, they are filled with photographs of squirrels and playful narratives that could offer some inspiration for your blog.
- “Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide” by Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie Ferrell This guide covers a range of topics related to squirrels, including their behavior and communication.
- “Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks” by Olaus J. Murie and Mark Elbroch While focused on tracks, this field guide can provide insights into animal behavior, including vocalizations.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.