Why Do Squirrels Flick Their Tails So Much?

The long bushy tails help squirrels in several ways and perform different functions. The tail size is not the same for all squirrels; some possess long tails while others have short ones.

Why Do Squirrels Flick Their Tails So Much? Squirrels flick their tails to communicate, respond to predators, protect their food, during breeding season, protect their babies, show frustration, control body temperature, balance, and travel on the trees and when they feel itchy.

It helps them climb the trees and acts as a parachute if they accidentally fall from the tree and avoid injury. However, they can survive without the tail if the bones and other body organs are safe.

Squirrels move their tail to communicate

They communicate with other animals in different ways, such as making chattering sounds and flicking their tails.

Professionals think they do not always make a chattering sound to communicate and shake their bushy tails when they want to tell other species about something.

They show their excitement and happiness by flicking the bushy back end, mixed with a sharp noise to let the other rodents know about their excitement.

These rodents often remain excited even when they find their favorite food and shake their tail as a gesture of gratefulness or happiness towards humans and other squirrels.

Response to predators

They show the response to different predators in different ways, such as they make sharp sounds or screaming with their tail flicking when they see ground predators.

They warn other rodents and animals about the predators and start shaking their back end rapidly to tell they have seen them coming and are not surprised. 

It is an alarm for other family members that the danger is near, and they need to move away and vacate this place to save their lives from predators. 

The aerial predators are more dangerous for these rodents, as they can attack the squirrels when they are above the ground or sitting on the high trees. 

They do not move or shake their tails when they notice aerial predators because owls and hawks can locate them from their motion. They lie flat on the branches or hide in other places and make high-pitched sounds to warn other rodents.

To protect their food

They love to eat nuts, fruits, vegetables, plant seeds, meat, and other food items. They do not work in groups for gathering or searching food but prefer to go individually and store the extra food to eat later.

They move their tails to protect the food and warn other squirrels to stay away from their food. They show this behavior more rapidly when other rodents approach their food and try to get it.

They usually do not mind sharing food with other species but become a little frugal about food when they do not have enough to share with others.

They flick the bushy back end with nuts in their hands to warn other squirrels, especially when they are getting ready for hibernation or the winter season. 

Male squirrels flick their tails during mating season

Male squirrels use their tails to impress the female with the long busy back end, and people often think they are dancing to agree with the female squirrel for mating.

They approach the female by flicking it, and if the female squirrels do not run away, it shows they agree to mate with the male rodent.

The male rodent shakes the tail in a noiseless way to not make the female stressed until the female shows interest. The male will chase the female to some distance to convince it while flicking the tail. 

To protect the squirrel babies

Baby squirrels depend on their mothers to feed and take care of them at younger ages. Mother squirrels move their tails when they see danger or predators to distract them so they do not reach their babies.

Mother squirrels are ready to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their babies because their babies cannot fight or run away from predators.

The predators move towards them, leaving the small rodents when adult squirrels flick them to protect their babies.

To show they are frustrated

They become frustrated when locked in a cage and flick their tails more frequently. They also show aggression and frustration when they cannot get the food in a box.

For example, I placed walnuts in a box and let the rodent open it. The rodent tried hard to get the walnut out and started flicking it due to frustration.

Moreover, they twitch their back bush end when the cage is small, and they cannot move comfortably in the cage.

To control body temperature

They usually have high body temperature because of their fast metabolism. The warm body temperature attracts the snakes and other predators towards these rodents.

They move their tails rapidly to control the body temperature when a snake attacks, such as the blood circulated in the body and heat being generated in the back side, which causes the snake to attack the tail instead of the body.

Squirrels can survive without a tail if the snake bites it instead of the sense organs, as the hair and tail can grow again, but the body organs and bones cannot grow again.

Squirrels use their tail to balance on trees

They travel through the wires and tree branches to play, find food, and chase each other. They use their tail to balance their bodies on the tree branches and wires when traveling through the electric wires.

You often notice that they flick their tail to counterbalance the movement on the fences, wires, and tree barks while traveling. It will help to travel safely without any damage.

It also helps them from falling to high places and reaches safely on the destination. They use it as a center of gravity and position the tail in the direction to maintain momentum and avoid falling.

Protecting their territory

Squirrels mark their territory with urine or scent glands and do not allow other rodents to enter their territory for food or shelter.

It is a sign to other rodents that they do not like their arrival, and warn them to move out of this place, as they are territorial animals.

Some of them do not flick their tails when other species enter their territory, such as grey squirrels do not bother much of other rodents when they enter their place and share their habitat without any aggression.

Other the other hand, red, fox, and Douglas squirrels are more territorial and twitch their bushy tail when other rodents enter their habitat.

To swim and remove water

Squirrels can swim when needed but are not experts in swinging under the water more frequently. They can use their paws and long, bushy tails to swim.

They flick it when swimming in the water because twitching helps them to float over or under the water without drowning.

Moreover, they do this to remove the excess water on their fur and body after rain or getting out of the river. They vigorously move their body to get rid of water in their hair.

To greet each other

They greet each other when they meet by rubbing their face and moving their tails to show friendly behavior. They usually do not show aggression towards their specie unless they try to snatch the native squirrel food.

Twitching their tails while greeting the family members and other rodents is a sign they are happy to see them. Not all squirrels welcome other species friendly, as sometimes they show territorial behavior when others approach them.

When feeling itchy

Squirrels contain fleas, mites, and ticks in their fur, and these pests suck blood from rodents’ skin, which causes them to feel itching on their back or underbelly.

They use their tails to scratch the itchy body part and use their front paws to rub the under-belly area. 

The rodents with fleas and mites are seen flicking their tails more often and rapidly because they bite and suck blood from the thin blood vessels.

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