types of squirrel

18 Types of Squirrels: Subfamilies, Species, Facts and Photos

There is not only one squeaking rodent in your background, but there are actually many types of squirrels spread across diverse habitats worldwide. Each species has unique traits and behaviors that make them stand out. 

This article on the various types of squirrels goes beyond the commonplace to provide an informative journey that traverses different continents and climates. Whether you are an avid naturalist or curious about animals, this article is for you.

Related Read: Squirrel Facts,

General Information about Squirrels

The Sciuridae family includes over 200 unique squirrel species on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. Squirrels vary widely in size, from the tiny African pygmy squirrel to the Indian giant squirrel. 

There are various squirrel species, such as tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs.

These creatures have adapted to North America's towering forests, Africa's expansive grasslands, and even our bustling city parks. Ground squirrels use complex burrowing networks, while tree squirrels climb the high branches of forests. Meanwhile, flying squirrels glide from tree to tree.

The list of squirrel species below is grouped by subfamily.

18 Types of Squirrel Species For Each Subfamily

Subfamily: Sciurinae

The subfamily Sciurinae comprises various species of squirrels known for their tree-climbing abilities. Some are also known for “flying”. They live in several world regions, including North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. 

Spread across 20 genera, there are 83 species under this subfamily.

Related read: Flying squirrel facts.

1. Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Eastern Gray Squirrel
Photo by MarshBunny on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Eastern Gray Squirrels live in woodlands and urban areas throughout the eastern and midwestern US and eastern provinces of Canada2

These agile creatures are most active during sunrise and sunset. Eastern Gray Squirrels also store food in secret stashes, which benefits them and the environment by spreading seeds far and wide.

One of their most impressive tricks is their unique agility. For instance, their ankles can rotate 180 degrees, allowing them to make a death-defying head-first descent down trees.

2. Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)

Southern Flying Squirrel
Photo by Cephas on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Southern Flying Squirrel is a small squirrel species with unique nocturnal adaptations. 

They possess large eyes perfectly adapted for nocturnal adventures and a flap of skin3, called 'patagium,' that stretches from wrist to ankle, allowing them to glide from tree to tree. 

These squirrels live in deciduous and mixed forests and prefer to build their nests in tree cavities. Additionally, the Southern Flying Squirrels huddle together for warmth during the winter season. 

Their diet comprises nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, bird eggs, and small birds. 

Moreover, they play a significant role in their ecosystems by planting the seeds of new forests and being a food source for larger predators.

3. Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)

Northern Flying Squirrel
Photo by Mark Levisay on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

Northern Flying Squirrels are expert gliders that use a skin-like membrane called the patagium to navigate their treetop homes. 

They typically live in mature, dense forests where they have access to a variety of food, including fungi, which they help to disperse by scattering spores. 

These squirrels also huddle in their nests to keep warm during cold temperatures.

4. Arizona Gray Squirrel (Sciurus arizonensis)

Arizona Gray Squirrel
Photo by www.naturespicsonline.com on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Arizona Gray Squirrel lives in the coniferous forests of Arizona and New Mexico. These squirrels are known for their gray coat, white belly, and bushy tail. 

They live in the calm wilderness and are often seen in trees, consuming various foods such as acorns, pine seeds, fruits, and berries. 

Likewise, they store food during winter months to ensure their survival and contribute to seed dispersal, which is essential for the health of their forest homes. 

Breeding season occurs in late winter or early spring, and after a gestation period of around 44 days, the female gives birth to 2-3 offspring. With an average lifespan of 6-7 years, these squirrels are survivors.

5. Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)

Fox Squirrel
Photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

As the largest tree squirrels in North America, fox squirrels can grow remarkably 27 inches long. Their habitats span the eastern and central United States, extending to the West Coast and Canada. 

Likewise, Fox Squirrels have comfortably settled in various settings, from mature hardwood and pine forests to tree-covered urban neighborhoods.

Fox Squirrels are diurnal creatures with sharp claws and muscular hind legs, making them excellent climbers. They can quickly move up and down trees and leap from branch to branch. 

Fox squirrels prefer acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts, and other tree seeds for food. However, they will supplement their diet with fruits, berries, insects, bird eggs, and small rodents when necessary. 

Unlike other squirrel species, Fox Squirrels do not store food for the winter. Instead, they bury food during warmer months and rely on their remarkable memory to find it when the weather turns cold.

6. American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

American Red Squirrel
Photo by Cephas on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The American Red Squirrel is a small, active rodent in North America's coniferous forests. Their fur is reddish and can range from a soft rusty red to a deep chestnut brown. 

They are most active during the early morning and late afternoon, searching for food or guarding their territory. 

Likewise, they eat coniferous tree seeds, mushrooms, fruits, and berries, and sometimes even bird eggs or young birds. 

They observe "larder hoarding" to store food in a central cache for the winter months, showcasing their industrious nature.

7. Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii)

Douglas Squirrel
Photo by VJAnderson on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Douglas Squirrel lives in the conifers along the Pacific coastline of North America. This herbivorous squirrel feeds on seeds, berries, nuts, and conifer cones but may add insects and bird eggs when food is scarce. 

Unlike other squirrel species, the Douglas Squirrel remains active during winter, gathering and storing food in hidden caches to get through the cold months. These caches often sprout into new saplings, contributing to the forest's renewal.

Named after Scottish botanist David Douglas, the Douglas Squirrel is a common sight in the lush forests from British Columbia to central California. 

8. Western Gray Squirrel (Sciurus griseus)

Western Gray Squirrel
Photo by Fish Demon on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Western Gray Squirrel boasts a striking silvery-gray coat and unique white belly. These squirrels live in mature forests along the western coastal areas of the United States, including California, Oregon, and Washington. 

They eat seeds, nuts, acorns, pine cones, and the occasional fruit, berry, insect, or bird egg. Moreover, they bury food for later use, contributing to the health and growth of their forest homes. 

During their mating season from late winter to early spring, young Western Gray Squirrels are born, symbolizing the renewal of life in the spring. 

These squirrels have also adapted to the Sierra Nevada mountains. They prefer mature forests with ample shelter and food sources.

9. Abert's Squirrel (Sciurus aberti)

The Abert's Squirrel inhabits the Rocky Mountain region of North America. It has distinctive tufted ears and a plush coat of dark grey to black with a white underside. 

This squirrel prefers cool, mountainous regions with mixed coniferous forests, especially the Ponderosa Pine, their crucial food source. Moreover, Abert's Squirrel peels back bark to reach the nutritious cambium layer underneath.

10. Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus)

Ground Squirrel
Photo by Rotadefterim on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

Ground squirrels live across North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. They have built homes in diverse landscapes, from deserts to forests.

Likewise, they are small to medium-sized with sturdy bodies and short legs. Their tails are bushy, and their fur comes in earthy tones. 

Ground squirrels create extensive tunnel systems to protect themselves from harsh weather and predators. These tunnels also contain food storage rooms and nurseries for their young. 

Moreover, these squirrels are most active during the morning and late afternoon and are mainly vegetarians. However, they will occasionally snack on insects and small vertebrates.

11. Indian Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica)

Indian Giant Squirrel
Photo by VinodBhattu on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Indian Giant Squirrel inhabits India's rainforests. It is one of the largest squirrels in the world, with a body length ranging from 25 to 45 cm and a tail that can grow up to 60 cm. 

The squirrel's coat is a mix of chestnut, maroon, black, and white, and its big, round eyes help it see in the dense forests where it lives.

Indian Giant Squirrels live alone, high up in trees, constructing large, globe-like nests from twigs and leaves. 

They eat fruits, flowers, nuts, tree bark, insects, and bird eggs and play an essential role in spreading seeds and helping new plants grow.

Besides their impressive size and colorful appearance, Indian Giant Squirrels are skilled acrobats. They hang upside down from branches, stretching their bodies to reach their food.

Subfamily: Xerinae

The subfamily Xerinae includes ground-dwelling squirrels found in various habitats across the globe. They have sturdy bodies and expert burrowing skills, creating intricate tunnel networks for homes and food storage. There are 146 species distributed into 15 genera.

12. Alpine Marmot (Marmota marmota)

Alpine Marmot
Photo by trldp on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Alpine Marmot is a squirrel relative found in Central and Southern Europe. It resides in rocky terrain and lush alpine meadows between 800 and 3,200 meters above sea level. 

The marmot digs burrows for shelter that can reach depths up to 3 meters, often located among the region's native flora, which makes up the marmot's diet. 

Likewise, the Alpine Marmot usually lives in colonies of up to 20 members. Each colony is a large family led by a dominant breeding pair and filled with their offspring.

Alpine marmots are hardy creatures built for survival in harsh climates. These squirrels hibernate for up to nine months during the icy winters, only emerging when spring arrives. 

The Alpine marmot also does a unique whistle, echoing through the mountain air, which signals the rest of the colony that danger is near.

13. African Pygmy Squirrel (Myosciurus pumilio)

The African Pygmy Squirrel is one of the two smallest squirrel species in the world. (The other is the neotropical pygmy squirrel.) It lives in the treetops of the rainforests in Central and West Africa. 

The squirrel maneuvers through a maze of branches with its tail longer than its body. Moreover, the African Pygmy Squirrel eats fruits, seeds, tender buds, and insects. It doesn't stash away supplies like other squirrels but embarks on a fresh daily hunt. 

Its coat serves as natural camouflage and shields the petite creature from predators. 

Despite threats from larger animals and deforestation, the African Pygmy Squirrel thrives in its treetop home.

Subfamily: Ratufinae

The Ratufinae, commonly known as Oriental giant squirrels, inhabit the tropical forests of South and Southeast Asia. This family consists of four species in one genus.

14. Red Giant Squirrel (Ratufa affinis)

The Red Giant Squirrel is a stunning creature in Southeast Asia's tropical forests. Its fiery red coat makes it stand out in the verdant canopy. 

Despite its name, it moves with grace and agility as it forages for fruits, nuts, seeds, bird eggs, and tiny insects. 

The squirrel's diverse diet helps the forest regenerate by aiding in seed dispersal. This solitary creature constructs complex nests high up in the treetops, providing a haven from predators.

15. Black Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor)

Black Giant Squirrel
Photo by JJ Harrison on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Black Giant Squirrel has a striking black coat contrasted by cream to cinnamon hues on its underparts. Their body can grow up to 15 inches while their tails can be twice as long.

It's an arboreal animal found in Southeast Asia's mature forests that feeds on seeds, nuts, fruits, leaves, insects, bird eggs, and young birds.

Like oriental giant squirrels, this squirrel rarely ventures to the ground, preferring the trees' safety, where it communicates with its fellow squirrels through distinct calls.

Subfamily: Callosciurinae

The Callosciurinae is another subfamily of squirrels living in Asia. Its name is derived from one of its genera, which literally means beautiful squirrels. There are 14 genera and 65 species of squirrel in this subfamily.

16. Variable Squirrel (Callosciurus finlaysonii)

Variable Squirrel
Photo by Rushenb on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Variable Squirrel, or Finlayson's Squirrel, stands out due to its diverse coloration. This varies from black and white to grays and even lively hues of orange and red. You can identify them by their medium size, bushy tails, and rounded ears.

You'll find Variable Squirrels predominantly in Southeast Asia. Their habitat spans from forests to urban parks. Adaptation is their stronghold, allowing them to thrive in a wide range of environments.

Their diet largely consists of seeds, fruits, and nuts. However, they also occasionally consume insects. 

17. Layard's Palm Squirrel (Funambulus layardi)

Layard's Palm Squirrel
Photo by desertnaturalist on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Layard's Palm Squirrel boasts a mix of grays and browns with an off-white underbelly. Noticeably, it has two thin and one thick stripes of orange along its body.

Found primarily in South Asia, these squirrels favor habitats with tropical weather. They are tree-dwellers, spending most of their time in rainforests, gardens, plantations, and woodland areas. Their choice of residence allows quick access to their preferred food sources.

Layard’s Palm Squirrels have a diverse omnivorous diet. They feast on various vegetation, including fruits, nuts, and flowers, but also consume insects and bird eggs when available. Their active daytime behavior involves foraging for food and agile tree-hopping.

Subfamily: Sciurillinae 

18. Neotropical Pygmy Squirrel (Sciurillus pusillus)

The Neotropical Pygmy Squirrel, the smallest of the squirrel family1, measures 3.9 inches with a tail double its body length. It is predominantly grey due to its lighter hair tips. This helps them blend seamlessly into their surroundings.

Native to Central and South America, these creatures prefer dense, damp forests. They thrive in the rich biodiversity of tree canopy layers in these regions.

Their diet consists mainly of insects, small fruits, and seeds. Neotropical Pygmy Squirrels are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and tend to forage alone, showcasing an independent nature.

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1

Jessen, R. R., Gwinn, R. N., & Koprowski, J. L. (2013). Sciurillus pusillus(Rodentia: Sciuridae). Mammalian Species, 903, 75–79. 

2

c, J. L. (1994). Sciurus carolinensis. Mammalian Species, 480, 1. 

3

Dolan, P. G., & Carter, D. C. (1977). Glaucomys volans. Mammalian Species, 78, 1. 

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