Fluffy tails, nuts, and raiding attics are not the only characteristic features of a squirrel. They are also known for their cries. Night or day, squirrels always communicate and make sounds to express a situation. The sounds vary and can either come out cute like the muk muk sound or grating like the quaa sound.
To find out the various sounds made by squirrels and the reasons they make them, keep reading.
Why Squirrels Cry
Squirrels make various sounds, some loud while others quiet. The intensity of the sound depends on the intensity of the situation. Here are some popular reasons why squirrels cry:
1. Cry To Express Alarm
Domesticated squirrels rarely make this type of cry, unlike wild squirrels, who are prey to a large number of predators. Some predators they are able to evade, others not so much. This leads to a wide difference between the average lifespan of domesticated squirrels and wild squirrels.
Ground predators that hunt squirrels include snakes, coyotes, foxes, weasels, raccoons, and wolverines. Big birds such as eagles, hawks, and owls also hunt squirrels and make a meal out of them when captured.
When the squirrel spots a predator, it makes a variety of sounds and scurries away for protection. Other squirrels, upon hearing the sound translate it to mean that a predator is nearby and hide.
The cries can either be:
- buzz – low intensity, quick sound made with the nostrils
- kuk – brief barking sounds
- quaa – an extended version of the kuk barking sound
- seet – low amplitude, high-frequency sounds
- bark – loud, high amplitude cries
Eastern grey squirrels usually use the kuk, quaa, and buzz sounds, while the seet, barks, and seet-barks are common among the North American red squirrels.
The various sounds are usually progressive and can also be used in combination. For example, when the squirrel sights the predator, it swishes its tail, then makes the buzz sound, followed by the kuk, and finally the quaa sound.
Also, the sounds can communicate the type of predator. Barks typically indicate a ground predator, while seet and seet-barks are reserved for airborne predators.
2. Cry To Express Anger Or Aggression
Some squirrels are extremely defensive of their territories and food sources, depending on the species. This is the case for American red squirrels with food sources such as the seeds and cones of evergreen trees. They have been observed to warn off intruding squirrels from their food sources with rattles and screeches.
The cry begins with a rattle that informs the intruder of the squirrel’s presence. Then the rattle is followed by a screech to threaten the intruder.
These sounds go together with teeth chattering, feet stomping, and tail wags to express hostility towards the trespasser.
3. Cry To Express Hunger
This type of cry is usually common among baby squirrels. It involves the muk muk or moan sound made to call the mother’s attention. It is soft and usually goes undetected by predators and humans.
Newborn squirrels have minimal mobility, zero vocal abilities, and rely on the mother for milk. They cannot make any sound at that stage, but within a week after birth, they can make a squeak, and within three weeks, they can scream and perform the muk muk sound.
4. Cry To Express Mating Intentions
Adult males also use the baby muk muk sound when trying to express their mating interest to a female squirrel. The males do this because they want the female to be receptive and not feel threatened by their presence.
The mating instinct begins when the female is approaching her heat period. Then the males gather around her and make the muk muk sound. When the female is ready, she proceeds to run, encouraging the aroused males to pursue her around the territory.
The males make loud kuks and quaas to discourage the weaker males from continuing the chase. The stronger males then fight until one of them emerge as the winner.
The dominant male who successfully fights off other males gets to continue the pursuit and therefore wins the race.
The female stops running when there is a clear winner and makes the moan sound to indicate that she is ready to start mating. The female is only in heat for a few hours, so squirrel mating sounds go together with aroused males pursuing a female around the forest.
5. Cry To Express Pain
This type of cry is usually one-way as the squirrel is not trying to call the attention of other squirrels to its situation. When a squirrel gets injured, it makes the muk muk and moan sound to express its pain. Whenever the injured spot is incited, the squirrel may make louder screeches or quaa sounds.
Recovery is possible but the prospects are very slim. Squirrels in this situation are either rescued by humans, captured by predators, or killed by harsh weather conditions.
Squirrels Crying At Night
The most popular sounds made by squirrels are the danger/alarm calls. It is usually made during the day as squirrels have poor eyesight at night and have difficulties detecting predators.
The only squirrels active at night are the flying squirrels, who perform most of their actions during the night. They can see clearly at night and make alarm calls when an intruder is sighted. They also search for food and mate during the night.
If you happen to hear squirrels crying at night, then you must live close to the habitat of a flying squirrel. They live in attics, coniferous forests, and woodlands.
You must have heard a squirrel cry, but did you discover the true purpose of their cry. That should be a challenge for the next time you hear them.
Figure out its purpose by observing the squirrel and its environment. Translating their sounds may become your next favorite hobby!