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You may have seen a chipmunk before, but have you heard of one before? Do you know what sounds they make? In this article, you will learn how to identify chipmunks and what the different sounds mean.

Chipmunks make various noises like chip chips and chuck-chucks that are used as warning sounds. Trills are a sign of imminent danger while chirps and croaks are used in mating season.

If you have seen a chipmunk, then you know they are one of the most adorable creatures on earth. They have chubby cheeks, captivating round eyes, bushy tails, and striped backs. Chipmunks are agile and move quite fast.

There are about 25 species of chipmunks, most of which inhabit North America, except for the Siberian chipmunk.

Chipmunks have an omnivorous diet and tend to eat a variety of foods. Their diet consists of nuts, seeds, fruits, grasses, shoots, fungi, and insects.

Humans sometimes consider them a pest because they invade cultivated land and eat grains or vegetables from farmlands.

In early times, these little creatures were referred to as ‘chipmunks’ and ‘chip squirrels.’ These names came from the chipping sounds that they make.

Chipmunk sound infographic
Chipmunk calling

Warning Calls

Most of the chipmunk’s sounds are to alert others of impending danger, normally due to a nearby predator. There are two familiar vocal sounds that you hear from these animals.

The most noticeable noise is usually the ‘chip-chip‘ sound. This one is produced in a high-pitched frequency and almost sounds similar to a bird’s chirp

Chipmunks use this sound as a warning call when ground predators are around. When a chipmunk notices a predator such as a cat, coyote, or raccoon, they make this call.

The other type of sound squirrels produce is the ‘chuck-chuck.’ This is described as a deep, clucking sound that comes out in a lower tone. This is meant to warn the other chipmunks of danger from aerial predators such as hawks.

Chipmunks have distinct warning sounds for both the ground and aerial predators. Once others receive the message, they will scamper for safety and hide in their burrows.

Sometimes, the chipmunk’s alert calls discourage predators from launching an attack. Domestic cats may give up hunting a chipmunk once the element of surprise is lost.

Chip chipWarning call
Chuck-chuckWarning call
TrillsWarning call when being chased
ChirpsMating call
CroaksMating call
High-pitched chitWhen surprised
ChuckDefending territory
SqueakMaternal care and warning call
BarkWarning call

Mating Calls

Chipmunks also use sounds to attract a mate, using a mating call. Typically, chipmunks live on their own, ignoring each other. They go about their activities alone and only come together in late spring in the breeding season. At this time, you may hear their mating calls.

Male chipmunks are ready to mate two weeks before the females. Males can travel long distances searching for female territories to confirm if they have reached estrus.

Chipmunks have a way of communicating with a mate. They are known to produce chirps and croaks when pursuing their potential mates. Shortly after mating, females drive away the males from their territories.

Find out about the Yellow-pine Chipmunk here.

Terrified Trills

Chip-chips and chuck-chucks may last for a few minutes and are sounds they make continuously. Trills, however, are brief vocalizations.

Trills are used exclusively as desperate alarm calls when a chipmunk is on the run from a predator. When you hear this sound, a predator is pursuing them.

Upon hearing these calls, other chipmunks increase their vigilance. Those outside their burrow scamper back in. Chipmunks inside their burrows will avoid coming out until they know the danger has passed.

Chipmunks are not silent when running away from a predator. Sounding an alarm may seem dangerous because it discloses its location to other nearby predators.

Chipmunks seem to believe that the benefits of warning other chipmunks outweigh the risks involved. It has been noted that chipmunks may trill more often and loudly when passing through a territory closer to their family members’ burrows. Even though they are solitary creatures, they care for their relatives.

Chipmunk in burrow

Do Chipmunks Bark?

Chipmunks use vocalizations, including barking, as a means of communication for various purposes, such as:

  1. Warning Calls: One of the primary reasons chipmunks bark is to warn other chipmunks in the area about potential threats or dangers. When they sense the presence of a predator, such as a bird of prey, a snake, or a larger mammal, they emit a high-pitched barking sound to alert nearby chipmunks to the danger. This warning helps the group of chipmunks stay vigilant and take evasive action if necessary.
  2. Territorial Defense: Chipmunks can be territorial, and they use vocalizations to defend their territory from intruders. Barking serves as a way to establish boundaries and deter other chipmunks from encroaching on their territory. This territorial behavior is especially common during the breeding season when competition for mates and nesting sites is fierce.
  3. Expressing Distress: Chipmunks may also emit barking sounds when they are in distress or facing a dangerous situation. This can include being trapped or injured. In such cases, the distress calls may serve as a way to seek help or draw attention to their plight.

Chipmunk vocalizations, including barking, play a crucial role in their survival. These sounds help them navigate their environment, communicate with other chipmunks, and stay safe from potential threats.

Do Chipmunks Squeak?

Chipmunks squeak for a variety of reasons as part of their communication repertoire. Squeaking is one of the vocalizations chipmunks use to convey different messages and respond to various situations. Here are some common reasons why chipmunks squeak:

  1. Alarm Calls: Chipmunks emit high-pitched squeaks as alarm calls when they sense danger or perceive the presence of predators. These alarm calls serve as a warning to other chipmunks in the vicinity, signaling them to be cautious and vigilant. The pitch and intensity of the squeaks can vary depending on the perceived level of threat.
  2. Social Communication: Chipmunks may squeak during social interactions, especially when they encounter other chipmunks in their territory or within their social group. Squeaks can help establish dominance hierarchies or communicate intentions, such as courtship or territorial defense.
  3. Maternal Care: Mother chipmunks may emit gentle, soothing squeaks when caring for their young. These maternal calls can help calm and reassure their offspring and may also signal them to nurse or seek shelter.
  4. Expressing Distress: Chipmunks may squeak when they are in distress, such as when they are injured, trapped, or facing a life-threatening situation. These distress calls can serve as a way to seek help or alert other chipmunks to their predicament.

Territorial Claims

Chipmunks are territorial and use vocalizations to defend their territories. If an intruder gets too close, chipmunks will fiercely defend the environment surrounding their burrows. Most adult chipmunks protect the area around 50 feet from their den.

Chipmunks feel threatened when they spot others encroaching on their turf. Chipmunks are small animals, making them vulnerable to many predators, so territories are a matter of life and death.

Their territory is where their dens are located.  The dens hide them from predators and harsh winter weather.

When warding off intruders, chipmunks usually react by being extremely loud. The loud vocalizations are meant to scare away others and portray dominance in that territory.

They make deep sounds repetitively reminiscent of ‘chucks.’ Also, they give off a combination of ‘chucks and ‘chips.’

These sounds can go on for almost half an hour until the intruders have left the territory. If the territorial calls are ignored, the chipmunk may have to resort to aggression.

Chipmunks will also make these vocalizations in response to the presence of humans. In these cases, they perceive humans as threats.

When a chipmunk is surprised, they make a high-pitched ‘chit’ sound. This is generally due to the sudden presence of a predator or intruder.

Find out about the Alpine Chipmunk here.


Vocalizations are not the only way chipmunks communicate with each other. They also do so through body language. They have various postures that they use to portray both dominance and submission.

In friendly encounters such as mating, they touch noses. This is a show of affection to members of the opposite sex.

They may also sniff each other’s cheeks or necks. Chemical information is essential during the mating process, and they can be spotted sniffing each other regularly.

They can often be seen sniffing the hind as the anal glands produce some secretions. These secretions determine if a female chipmunk is ready to mate.

Chipmunks indicate aggression differently. When they become aggressive, they give a variety of visual clues. These can be flattened ears, sudden, jerky movements, and fluffed tails. Chasing each other can also be a show of hostile behavior. 

Communication Between Chipmunks and Woodchucks

Woodchucks and chipmunks are rodents in North America and often share the same habitat.  Chipmunks and woodchucks also have several common predators, such as hawks and foxes.

This study in the Journal of Mammalogy shows that chipmunks are familiar with woodchucks’ warning calls. They can understand the message being passed across and respond to them accordingly.  

Chipmunks eavesdrop on the alarm calls of woodchucks and have even learned their meaning.

Woodchucks can also recognize the alarm calls made by chipmunks. However, they don’t seem to be as responsive to them. This may be because woodchucks are larger than chipmunks. Therefore, they are less vigilant when it comes to predators.

Want to know where chipmunks live? Find out in this article I wrote.

References And Further Reading

Animal Communication by John Bradshaw and Sandra Herbinger

This book provides an overview of communication in the animal kingdom, including the various ways animals communicate with each other. It may touch on aspects of chipmunk communication.

Animal Behavior: Concepts, Methods, and Applications by Shawn E. Nordell and Thomas J. Valone

This comprehensive textbook covers various aspects of animal behavior, including communication. It may include sections on small mammals like chipmunks.

Animal Communication and Noise edited by Henrik Brumm

While focused on the broader topic of animal communication and noise, this book may provide insights into the vocalizations and communication strategies of chipmunks and other small mammals.

The Secret Language of Animals: A Guide to Remarkable Behavior by Janine M. Benyus

This book explores the fascinating behaviors and communication methods of a wide range of animals, which may include information on chipmunks.