About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fun Facts on Squirrels

January 21 is National Squirrel Appreciation Day and I was wondering about the origin of the name “squirrel”.
Why are squirrels called squirrels?
Wikipedia explains that the word squirrel came from the early 14th century Anglo-Norman word esquirel and from the Old French escurel, which is the reflex of a Latin word sciurus. This Latin word was itself borrowed from Ancient Greek word σκίουρος, skiouros, which means, are you ready… shadow-tailed. This is probably because the squirrels use their bushy tails to shade themselves.

So for everyone who thought squirrel meant “clever creature sent to drive me crazy” or “batty rat that can figure out any bird feeder” now you know it means "beautiful beastie with a bushy tail".

Why do squirrels chew on everything?
Squirrels, nibble, gnaw and chew on anything and everything to sharpen and shorten their teeth that grow continuously. Squirrels’ teeth grow very fast and they wear them down by cracking nuts, trimming trees, and attacking bird feeders. If they didn’t, we’d have saber toothed squirrels running around.

How fast are squirrels?
The backyard tree squirrels in mid-Michigan are fast. They chase each other around and avoid predators at an average speed of 10-20 miles per hour. They have long, muscular hind legs and short front legs that work together to aid in leaping. They can jump 10 feet from a tree to a bird feeder or straight up an average of 4 ft. The hind legs of squirrels are double-jointed. This helps them run up and down trees quickly.

How big is a squirrel’s brain?
You are what you eat. A squirrel’s brain is about the size of a walnut, one of their favorite foods. They can eat their own body weight (approximately 1.5 pounds) every week. Squirrels are mostly vegetarian but sometimes they do eat small insects.

1 comment:

Mike.LeValley said...

A note on what squirrels eat - like most rodents they are more of an omnivore than an herbivore. They are not above eating insects, mice, eggs, the young of other squirrels, birds (both young and adults), and carrion. It is quite disconcerting the first time you find a squirrel feasting on a goldfinch on your birdfeeder.