Why Do Squirrels Shake Their Tails? Signals & Communication (2023)

Squirrels are adorable animals and have many different habits. One of the habits which are commonly observed is they twitch their bushy tails so often. They do it so much. If you spend time and watch them, you will notice that the twigging tail is a way of communication to them and survival strategy, and if you observe them with full attention, you will learn a lot of things from twitching their tail. But here is a question why the squirrels twitch their long bushy tails so much. The squirrels often twitch their tail when they sense danger. When they see a predator, they start twitching their tails along with loud vocalization to attain the other squirrel’s attention. The tail is a way of communication for squirrels.

Why Do Squirrels Shake Their Tails? Signals & Communication (1)

Squirrels also twitch their tails to show their anger and frustration. Remember that this frustration and anger are different from humans. They show their emotional state when they don’t attain anything or when they can`t solve problems. The squirrels wagging their tails may signal that they are communicating with each other, it’s a sign of frustration, territorial, sexual desires.

A few reasons why squirrels twitch their tails so much, maybe

  • Help to attain others attention when they seek danger
  • To attain attention from the opposite sex.
  • To show frustration and anger.
  • To protect the food sources and territory from rival squirrels.
  • To show predators, they are aware of them.

Let us discuss some of the reasons why squirrels twitch their tails so much in detail.


Tail Twitching For Protection :

Squirrels twitch their tails when they sense danger. This is also an indication for others and predators that they are aware of their presence. The flicking motion of the tail is the best tool to inform distant squirrels to be aware of the predators and other dangers. The way squirrels wag their tail indicates what type of predator they are looking about.

Ground predators :

(Video) Why do squirrels wag their tails?

Most of the ground predators cannot catch animals and birds that live on the top of the tree. When the squirrels detect the predators like cats, dogs, coyotes, or even humans, they start flickering their tails and make loud vocalizations toward the source of danger.

The flickering tails inform other squirrels to locate their position and remain aware of the danger. The primary message that squirrels give is a warning. Squirrels are not worried from ground predators as the danger is on the ground and cannot harm them. So if you see a squirrel flicking its tail, try to focus on its facing position. You will quickly locate where the danger is coming from.

Aerial predator:

The squirrels are more in danger from aerial predators. The aerial predators such as hawks or owls catch them unknowingly even if they are not on the ground. The squirrels have very few chances to escape as there are very few places for squirrels to hide. Squirrels usually flatten their body with trees to hide them. In this case, there are very few chances you see the flicking of their tails. Instead, they make loud and high-pitched voices so they cannot be located.

So if you ever come across a squirrel’s high-pitched voice and cannot see a tail flicking, it means some aerial predator is nearby.

Why Do Squirrels Shake Their Tails? Signals & Communication (2)

Territorial Tail Flicking :

As we know that tail flicking is an alarm to sense danger and inform other long-distance squirrels. It helps them to locate the position and help them out. However, tail flicking can be a sign of territoriality. But it should be remembered that not all squirrels are rivals to each other. For example, grey squirrels tend to live happily and are often seen feeding and interacting peacefully. They want to raise their children communally and feel safer living with others. But red squirrels and Douglass are examples of territorial squirrels. They constantly twitch their tails as a deterrent to let the others know that there will be problems for them if they invade. So be careful while making observations about territorial flicking and alarmed flicking.

Showing aggression and frustration :

(Video) Eastern Grey Squirrel can't stop wagging its tail!

Squirrels flick their tails to show aggression and frustration. This usually happens when they don’t find a solution to their problems. For example, to check their psychology, some walnuts were placed in a locked box. There was an empty box, and in one box, there was corn instead of walnuts. The squirrels showed more frustration on the locked box and flicked their bushy tails. The locked box was much more irritating than any other thing because, in the end, they returned disappointed. As they got more frustrated, they twitch their tail more. However, it should be remembered that their frustration and aggression are far different from humans.

Finding mate :

Breeding season is very interesting to watch as you can see many different behaviors of squirrels. When the breeding season starts, the male starts chasing their females around the forests. When they approach their desired female, they start twitching their tails to attract them and make them come over them. Squirrels male continue chasing the female until he catches them .When the male squirrels becomes successful in catching her . He tries to save her from other male squirrels. But sometimes the game takes turns, and the others take the female squirrel. The dominant male always won the game, and the other has to chase again for mating.

Balancing :

Squirrels required outstanding balance and flexibility for moving tree to tree, jumping on the branches either for the search of food or mating, or running from predators. They use their tail for balancing and support.

The tail continuously provides them counterbalance and momentum as they run from narrow tree branches and along powerlines. The squirrel adjusts their tail in the direction they want and assure themselves that they will not fall, but sometimes accidents occur, but tails also do work in their recovery.

Why Do Squirrels Shake Their Tails? Signals & Communication (3)

Food is mine :

Whenever the squirrels find food such as nuts, fruits, etc., they immediately want to eat or store it for the winter season. Squirrels don’t want to share their food. They want to hide it from others, .so when they encounter food. They usually wag their tail to warn them not to encroach them and stay away from their food.

(Video) Squirrel Tail Signals

Squirrel swimming :

As the squirrels can do so many things, they can swim as well. The swimming of squirrels is not publically known. It is not like that they are designed for swimming, but they can swim if swimming is needed. Tail plays an important role in steering and floating when they swim.

Keep them cool :

The function of the tail is also to keep the body cool. As the squirrels keep on moving to save them from predators, their body heats up. The squirrel body has the ability to divert the blood in long bushy tails to assure that their body function properly and the tail remains them cool. Staying cold prevent squirrels’ bodies from cruel heat.

For Extra Reading: Do Squirrel Make Noise.

Staying warm :

As the winter approaches, it is much cold. The squirrels do not hibernate because they have to search for food. So in winters, they wrap their tails around themselves to feel them warm .the squirrels curl up in a small ball with a tail around them in their hand-made bed. But on the tree branches, they cannot curl up, so they lay flat with the tail on the back. You can find squirrels laying flat with a tail on the back in winters, and in hot summers, you will find the opposite position.

Bracing for a fall :

Although the squirrels are pretty good at making risky jumps and heaps, they may sometimes fall accidentally. The squirrels usually do not get bodily harm because they use their tail as a parachute for landing. The tail acts as a parachute and slows down the body as it lands and distributes its bodyweight evenly. As the squirrels are smaller creatures, they have less terminal velocity than humans to get less bodily harm.

(Video) Squirrel twitches/shakes its tail

Conclusion :

The squirrels wag their tails when they are in danger or when they are startled or alarmed. This is a signal for other squirrels to look out for the trouble and be aware of it. They usually wag their tail when they are upset. If they see any predators approaching them and their children, they twitch their tails to inform another distant squirrel. The squirrel wags their tails for territorial reasons. The other reason for wagging may be during the breeding time for mating.

Frequently asked question :

Q1:What does it mean when squirrels shake its tail?

Shaking tail is a sign of danger. When the squirrel sees anything suspicious or feels danger, they shake their tails to inform other distant squirrels. This helps them to relocate their position and help them.

Q2:How can you say that the squirrel is happy?

Squirrels show their affection by nibbling and licking. As they are wild animals, they can also show affection through biting and nibbling.

Related Post:

Squirrel Eyesight

Squirrel Sound


What does it mean when a squirrel shakes her tail? ›

Flicking a tail indicates to the predator that the squirrel sees it and will flee if the predator gets closer. This motion also shunts heat from a squirrel's body to try to fool the heat-sensing capabilities of a snake.

Do squirrels send signals with their tails? ›

Maybe you looked up to see a squirrel, chattering away while flicking its tail. Both the vocalization and the tail flick are alarm signals produced by gray squirrels. It turns out they have a number of vocal and tail signals that have different meanings depending on how they are used.

What does it mean when a squirrel wags its tail and stares at you? ›

The Squirrel is Staring and Wagging its Tail

This behaviour often indicates that a squirrel is feeling alarmed and is a signal to other squirrels to be on their guard. It can also indicate that the squirrel is reserving its territory or trying to protect a food source.

How does a squirrel show affection? ›

According to experts licking is a way that they show affection. Think of this behavior similar to how a dog shows affection. They will lick your legs, face, hands and etc. Pet squirrels purr as a sign of happiness and content, similar to a cat.

Do squirrels understand humans? ›

It is true that squirrels are intelligent and can recognize humans they see as food sources, but that does not mean an emotional connection or bond. The apparent docile nature of squirrels is more likely due to humans encroaching on the animals' natural habitat.

What is tail flagging in squirrels? ›

Tail flagging is associated with conflict, frustration, and intention to move. Tree-squirrel progenitors of ground squirrels used their tails during attention shift, which may have led to the evolution of snake- directed tail flagging in California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi).

How does a squirrel communicate? ›

Squirrel. Squirrels communicate with each other through various vocalisations and scent marking. They also use their tails as a signalling device, twitching it when uneasy to alert other squirrels of potential danger.

What does it mean when a squirrel waves at you? ›

During breeding season, squirrels communicate in part by using their tails. When a squirrel sees another of the opposite gender, he's likely to wave his tail at her or make it shiver as a way to gain her attention.

How do you befriend a squirrel? ›

Most people who do tame wild squirrels on their property will do it by placing food nearby and then simply waiting, allowing the squirrels to approach without startling them, then gradually moving the food closer until they can hand feed the animals.

Do squirrels try to communicate with humans? ›

Squirrels are naturally curious animals, and if they hear you making sounds similar to theirs, you can expect to see them approach you to investigate. With time, patience and repeated sessions, they will eventually walk right up to you, and even become excited to see you when you approach.

How do squirrels interact with humans? ›

Squirrels may be habituated to human presence, both Coleman and Bateman said, but that doesn't mean they are tame creatures. Both researchers caution against attempting to hand-feed squirrels or other wild animals. “Squirrels may move away from us, but they can get really bold and start stealing food,” Bateman said.

Do squirrels like to be petted? ›

While petting a squirrel may seem like a caring, loving gesture, that message may ultimately not make it across to the animal. In fact, you may touch a squirrel in a way that is uncomfortable or even dangerous to the animal.

How do squirrels show anger? ›

Those familiar with these expressive rodents know how they let their anger be known: a guttural growl, a chattering of teeth, a stamping of feet.

Do wild squirrels get attached to humans? ›

There are several documented cases in which orphaned squirrels have been raised by humans and then, in most cases, released into the wild. While squirrels born in the wild may not be particularly friendly, they do seem to remember their human hosts. In some cases, they even return to reconnect with their human saviors.

What is the memory span of a squirrel? ›

In Chow's study on squirrels, published in 2017 in the journal Animal Cognition, she showed that impressive memory spans enable squirrels to successfully recall the solution to a difficult task (manipulating levers to open a hatch that releases a prized hazelnut) more than two years after they first learned it.

How intelligent is a squirrel? ›

All rodents are intelligent animals, but the squirrel crowns the list for intelligence. While a rat/mouse can outsmart and sometimes outmaneuver a pursuing human, squirrels' quickness and intellect give them a lead over other predators and more giant creatures.

What does it mean when a squirrel is chirping at you? ›

Although their calls sometimes sound like they're scolding us — or the cat — most of them are alarm signals given both to warn off a predator and to warn other squirrels of danger.

Can squirrels hear you? ›

Tree squirrels hear pitches between 53 and 63,000 Hz. They hear some sounds at frequencies low enough for humans to hear, but they also hear high pitches that are also heard by dogs. Ground squirrels typically hear pitches between 16 and 26,000 Hz, about the same range as humans.

Do squirrels trust people? ›

There are numerous well documented instances of squirrels remembering human beings. Wild squirrels are quickly trained to keep in mind that particular individuals can be risk-free and trusted sources of food.

What is a squirrels favorite food? ›

Some of their favorite foods include acorns, walnuts, hickory nuts and Osage orange fruits. They may also feed on wild tree fruits, nuts, and tree buds when food is scarce later in winter.

Should you touch a squirrel? ›

Wild animals can also spread diseases to people and pets. Never touch a wild animal, no matter how cute or friendly it seems.

What do squirrels use their tails for? ›

“The squirrel's tail serves it in three major ways that aid its survival: protection, balance and communication,” according to Professional Wildlife Removal. “It provides a balancing function when the animal climbs. It does this by maintaining balance as the squirrel climbs and jumps from one tree to another.

Do squirrels wag their tails when happy? ›

In general, squirrels tend to wag their tails when they are startled or alarmed. This signals to other squirrels, letting them know to be on their guard and look out for trouble. They often wag their tails when they're upset, such as if a person gets too close to some squirrel babies.

How do squirrels warn each other of danger? ›

A squirrel will “kuk” multiple times in a row and is used when the squirrels sees an immediate threat. The sharp kuk is used to alert other squirrels of immanent danger and to let the predator know that they have lost the element of surprise. Quaas are the screaming sound from squirrels.

Do squirrels have control of their tails? ›

By flicking its tail quickly 3 consecutive times, a squirrel can warn other squirrels nearby of danger, perhaps from a predator. With the help of its tail, the squirrel can adapt to different weather conditions – in rainy weather, the tail acts as an umbrella and a towel when the animal is wet.

What does it mean when a squirrel lays its tail on its back? ›

In most cases a good first guess is that the behavior relates directly to an individual's survival or to its reproductive success. One suggestion has been that the tail behavior has to do with protection from predation.

What does it mean when a squirrel stands up? ›

Squirrels also present themselves with a puffed-up, enhanced and erect posture when defending territory. They will often stand on their hind legs to let intruders know that they are a formidable enemy should advances be made further into the territory.

What does it mean when a squirrel has his tail over his head? ›

Squirrels have also been found using their tails to cover their head when heavy objects are falling, thus they can protect their fragile heads. The fluffy tail of some species of squirrels is not that long to wrap it around their entire bodies, but they manage to extend it over their delicate parts (the head).

What does it mean when a squirrel makes a crying sound? ›

Quaas and moans sometimes blend into each other, and sometimes that makes them sound remarkably like a disgruntled chicken. Squirrels often use more than one call, but rapid kuks and quaas are most often given when a terrestrial predator is around, and moans are usually used in response to aerial threats like hawks.”

Do squirrels know who feeds them? ›

There are numerous well documented instances of squirrels remembering human beings. Wild squirrels are quickly trained to keep in mind that particular individuals can be risk-free and trusted sources of food.


1. The squirrel communicating via the tail
2. Squirrel sounds and their meanings
(Squirrels at the window)
3. Gray Squirrel Tail Wagging and Scent Marking Communication
4. Squirrel Facts
5. Grey squirrel tail signals
(Wildlife Online)
6. Squirrel goes on full alert.
(bob dahringer)


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