Squirrels are active all year round and do not hibernate. A squirrel lives in a nest known as a ‘drey’, comprising of a dense ball of interwoven twigs (roughly the size of a football), lined inside with soft materials including moss, leaves, grass and fir. Dreys are usually located in the fork of a branch tight against the tree trunk, around two-thirds of the way up the tree.
Red squirrels will usually have more than one drey and have often been observed moving their kits from one to another.
Red squirrels live in trees, so are known as ‘arboreal,’ living in all types of woodland. In more fragmented landscapes such as agricultural and suburban areas, they exploit pockets of trees and woodlands connected by hedgerows and other wildlife corridors.
The notion that red squirrels prefer conifers is somewhat confusing. They are increasingly restricted to large conifer woodlands and plantations due to competition from encroaching grey squirrels. They can exist in conifers better than grey squirrels but red squirrels will reach their highest population densities in mixed or broadleaf woodlands with a diversity of species and availability of food.
Red squirrels primarily eat seeds from plants and trees, but their diet can vary greatly throughout the year. Food is plentiful during the autumn and winter months when trees are rich with seeds and fungi are available. However, food can be scarcer during spring and summer, when their diet extends to include plant shoots, bulbs, flowers, wild fruits and berries, and even insects and occasionally bird eggs.
Supplementary feeding in boxes should include a good quality squirrel mix of hazlenuts (in shells), wheat, linseed, pine nuts, peanuts (limited), sunflower seeds and fruit or vegetables such as apples and carrots. Supplementary feeding should not take the place of natural food sources and only small amounts of food should be put out every 3-4 days. For more information go to RSNE information sheet.