Scientific name: Sciurus vulgaris
The native red squirrel is mostly found in forests in the north of the UK. It has a characteristically bushy tail, large ear tufts and red fur.
Average lifespan: 6 years
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.
When to seeJanuary to December
AboutThe red squirrel is our native squirrel and is most often found in coniferous woods. Red squirrels feast on hazelnuts by cracking the shell in half. You may also find pine cones that have been nibbled, leaving what looks like an apple core behind. Red squirrels make a rough nest, called a 'drey' out of twigs, leaves and strips of bark in the fork of a branch, high up in the tree canopy. Breeding begins in winter and carries on through spring. Males chase females through the tree canopy, leaping across branches and spiralling up tree trunks. Females may have two litters of two to three young a year.
How to identifyThe red squirrel has a reddish-brown coat and pale underside. It has a characteristically bushy tail. It is easily distinguished from the grey squirrel by its smaller size, red fur and distinctive, large ear tufts.
In our area
In Northern Ireland, red squirrels are a priority species and are protected by Schedule 5 and 6 of the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985. The best places to see them include County Fermanagh, the Mourne Mountains and the Glens of Antrim.