My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Black Squirrel

Black Squirrel
Black Squirrel at Young Naturalist J‘s House

This Black Squirrel is really a black phase of the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). Typically we find these guys in the gray/redish phase but on occasion we find the black phase running around. There has been a black phase pair around the 4 corners of Red House Lake for many years now but I have never been able to get a decent photo of them. 😦

Black Squirrel

They feed mainly on seeds like beech-nuts and acorns but have been known to eat bird nestlings from the nest they locate. They are also opportunist in eating insects whenever they find anything available to them and can be regularly found gorging on sunflower seeds at peoples bird feeders. A few years ago I had found this unusual black phased squirrel with a redish tail looking for some fallen sunflowers. It quickly became my “favorite” squirrel but this cute squirrel stayed in the area for about one week’s time. I think some of the local squirrels had chased it away since I had been giving it all my attention!

black and red tail squirrel
Black Squirrel with a Redish Tailed at my Bird Feeder

Sometimes these squirrels are disliked by us birders but I still enjoy watching scurry around the forest! Do you encourage them at your feeder or do you discourage them? I personally try to discourage them by using a Squirrel proof feeder . . . . well except this Black/Redish tailed Squirrel (I left seeds on the ground or him)!!


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39 responses

  1. When I lived in Ohio there were black squirels everywhere. They were very aggressive. Do you think they are the same?

    18 November 2007 at 7:03 pm

  2. Cool black squirrels Tom! Do these squirrels turn black by eating black walnuts (Juglans nigra)? If not, what causes the black phase?

    18 November 2007 at 7:07 pm

  3. They’re so pretty!

    18 November 2007 at 7:07 pm

  4. Lisa at Greenbow

    I think black squirrels are so handsome. I have only seen them when on vacation. There are white squirrels in Olney, IL.

    18 November 2007 at 7:09 pm

  5. I think the black squirrels are very pretty.
    We dicourage the squirrels from the feeders but I put nuts and seed out in trays that the squirrels do get into. I also put corn out. I like watching the squirrels.
    Sherry

    18 November 2007 at 7:17 pm

  6. I know one thing, I am not sure that I like squirrels that much! The black squirrels are worse then the gray even thought they are the same! I swear that they are smarter and they can get into more trouble. They figure out ways to get up onto the bird feeders that the gray squirrels can not get to. I can like them one day and then hate them the next but it is manly my parents who dislike them. They do eat the bird seed and make us spend more money on bird food! But it is not bad all the time because I would much rather see a hawk eat a squirrel then a cute little nuthatch.

    P.S We got two Red-breasted nuthatch’s today at the feeders!

    18 November 2007 at 7:39 pm

  7. I used to see black squirrels occasionally down in D.C. There were a few areas in northeast Washington with pockets of black squirrels. I was surprised to encounter them when I first moved down there since the only other place I had seen them was in Princeton, N.J.

    I think the black morph is caused by a recessive gene rather than diet – like (natural) hair color in humans.

    18 November 2007 at 7:49 pm

  8. @ Sandy – I think all Squirrels can be that way! Red Squirrels are one of the biggest reason’s for nest failures in birds! So ya!
    @ Pam – Naa, I don’t think they turn that come from black walnuts! But it’s more genetics for being that way. Great Question!
    @ Lynne – they are, thanks
    @ Lisa – they are great for sure! I can’t say I have ever seen a white one but would be neat to find! Thanks
    @ Sherry – they can be fun to watch but can also clean out a feeder fast! I live by my Squirrel Proof Feeder! I saw Wal-mart started selling them!
    @ YN-J – they can cause problems and I dislike when they chew up some of the plastic feeders! Congrats on the RBNU’s!
    @ John – some areas they are more common than others! I agree with the genetic being the color difference!

    18 November 2007 at 7:55 pm

  9. Wow! I had no idea the black and grey squirrels were the same. They are bird feeder bullies! I always put seed on the ground for them but they are never, never satisfied unless they have everything I put out for the birds too.

    18 November 2007 at 7:58 pm

  10. That is really cool looking! I caught a glimpse of one like that black one once but that’s about it.

    18 November 2007 at 8:11 pm

  11. Love the pix of the black phase squirrels contrasted against the autumn leaves!

    18 November 2007 at 9:01 pm

  12. Very cool black squirrel, Tom! I’ve never seen one. I would cater to it, also, and buy peanuts in the shell and take loads of photos.

    I tolerate the squirrels and baffle the feeders but they always have another plan that works for them. I haven’t seen them lately and I’m saving a lot of money on seed as a result.

    18 November 2007 at 9:26 pm

  13. That is one gorgeous squirrel, I never knew they came in black 🙂 Squirrels in Black, at a theater near you, haha It’s quite sexy in that middle pic, lol 😉

    18 November 2007 at 9:39 pm

  14. @ Ruth – I was amazed when I learned that also! They are large rats who have to eat everything!
    @ Larry – thanks and they are great to see but ugg at the feeder!
    @ Lana – wasn’t easy to photograph! When I centered the camera on the squirrel the picture would always over expose! So, off centering the shot is what I needed to do!
    @ Mary – thanks and bet my squirrels would love you! I still love my squirrel proof feeder!
    @ Dove – its only a phase and as someone else mentioned you can find them all white sometimes!

    18 November 2007 at 9:43 pm

  15. OK. Now I’m freaked. I have squirrel-proof feeders, but I also feed the squirrels. A lot of squirrels. I broadcast peanuts and seeds. Dang! Should I cut back on this? I mean – will fox squirrels eat baby wrens? Dang!

    Those pictures are SO striking. How can you not be enchanted?

    18 November 2007 at 9:56 pm

  16. Michael Head

    We have a large population of squirrels both black and gray here in Westfield. We have a squirrel [roof feeder but they get plenty from the seed on the ground. As for red squirrels they are listed as varmits for a reason! Fun to watch as they tease the cats! The cats are sure they can catch them but they never do.

    18 November 2007 at 10:51 pm

  17. When I lived in Palo Alto, we had black squirrels. Someone had imported them at some time in the past. I miss them. I wasn’t feeding the birds then, however, so I wonder if I would still find them as cute now. I certainly don’t find their gray cousins to be cute at all. 🙂

    18 November 2007 at 11:24 pm

  18. This is such a neat picture! I have never seen a black squirrel. I do have a fondness for squirells though. They are just cute. ~nita~

    18 November 2007 at 11:57 pm

  19. NaturesPalette

    I LOVE SQUIRRELS!!!!! I love squirrels so much I even have one as a pet! (she’s a Southern Flying Squirrel named “Mocha”) I have seen photos of black ones but never in person, they are so pretty! In fact I just finished writing about the Eastern Gray Squirrel the other day, but need to fix my computer so I can upload some files before I publish it. *sigh*
    Thanks for sharing these awesome shots!!

    19 November 2007 at 2:56 am

  20. PWRBRDR

    I like squirrels, both for viewing and sometimes for eating… (not often though, the little buggers are not easy to cook). I never saw a black squirrel until I moved to western PA. It is genetic, but it is not recessive. It has to do with the dominant trees in the area. White Pine and hemlock have dark bark – hence more surviving black squirrels; maple and oak have light bark – hence more surviving gray squirrels; it is similar to the Peppered Moth in England!
    Just my 2 cents, but a neat topic!

    19 November 2007 at 5:56 am

  21. How cool! I’ve never seen a squirrel in the black phase like this. So pretty! I tend to like the squirrels and simply use a great baffle to deter them. I often will put out peanuts in the shell on the ground for them.

    19 November 2007 at 6:49 am

  22. Marg

    ooooo squirrels-love em or hate em?
    the neverending question

    we have these Black ones all over the place!

    19 November 2007 at 8:10 am

  23. @ Cathy – this time of the year you would’t have any nesting birds and I doubt any of the Fox Squirrels could get into those tiny holes! Red Squirrels are the worse bird/nestling preditors!
    @ mike – they are big is size and cats are just a little bigger! not sure why but Gray Squirrels have not been around my feeders recently! I wonder if its because of a local fisher in the area?? Today I will probably see one!
    @ Liz – they are cute and they also can be found in Europe from being imported! Thanks
    @ nita – thanks and we also have black woodchucks but that individual never let me get a good picture of it! ugg
    @ naturespalette – I live trapped 10 different flying squirrels (relocated) from my attic in about 3 days. They can really make a mess but I have heard about them being used as pets! can’t wait to read your Gray Squirrel post and also would love to see one on the Flying Squirrel!
    @ powerbirder – Never heard this being involved with the black squirrels (Have heard with other species though).
    @ Jayne – they are fun and it is sometimes fun to watch them! My cats really chatter when they are outside!
    @ Marg – I so agree! Glad you have them up north!

    19 November 2007 at 8:33 am

  24. The black squirrel looks very pretty. We only get the red squirrels in our feeders. I don’t mind them and love watching them jump around. The chipmunks are another story. They take off with all the food and never stop taking it, all day long. And because they are small they can get into all the feeders, the little cute thieves.

    19 November 2007 at 10:13 am

  25. I’ve never seen a black squirrel. It’s quite a handsome creature. I once had what looked like an albino squirrel chase me in Rocky Mountain national park. That was over 30 years ago, and I still remember it. It was all white, and quite fierce! Back home in Washington we are often visited by Douglas Squirrels. Very cute little critters.

    19 November 2007 at 10:57 am

  26. I first saw one at the Bronx Zoo (on the grounds, not in a cage). I discourage squirrels at my feeder, but I do a poor job of it. I always throw seed on the ground for the juncos and other ground feeders. This, in turn, brings the squirrels. I need to crack down more next year after the squirrels ate all our tomatoes! Who knew that squirrels at tomatoes?!

    19 November 2007 at 12:37 pm

  27. Hi Mon@rch,
    I have never seen a black squirrel.
    When I worked at WBU, sometimes customers would come in with stories of black squirrels in their communities.
    I had one customer who lived down next to the Mississippi and he told me there were, in fact, all white and all black squirrels living together in his yard. Naturally I was skeptical and asked him to send a photo for our picture board…..and he DID….a photo of a squirrel of each color on the tree right next to his deck–at the same time. Pretty cool stuff!

    19 November 2007 at 2:03 pm

  28. I love black squirrels! We don’t have them in Chicago, not that I know of, but I’ve seen them in ELkhart,IN. I do not know if the IN squirrels are in a phase or not.

    19 November 2007 at 2:32 pm

  29. I’ve never seen a black squirrel in person. Gorgeous pictures, Tom (especially the top one)! I’m a fan of all squirrels. They’re so darned entertaining!

    19 November 2007 at 3:09 pm

  30. Behind the house in Frewsburg we have about a 40% black to 60% gray mix. I was just enjoying watching them this weekend from my tree stand. This time of year they can be so playful chasing each other around. In Lockport we have a LOT of gray squirrels. When I take a walk around the block I will see at least six and sometimes a good ten to fifteen. I don’t think I could keep them away from my feeders if I tried. I have yet to see a black phase up here though.

    19 November 2007 at 5:37 pm

  31. What a smart-looking squirrel! Very different than the Gray Squirrels we mostly have here. Living in the city and having 3 cats that lounge on the only outdoor place we could have a feeder, we don’t have any feeders, so no squirrel issues 🙂

    19 November 2007 at 7:06 pm

  32. @ Erie – I like them better than the grays also! LOL, the Chipmunks do fill up their cheeks don’t they!
    @ Robin – they are for sure and an Albino Squirrel is what I have never seen before! LOL! Never heard of a Douglas Squirrel! Must go check them out!
    @ Patrick – thanks and one day I want to visit the Bronx Zoo! Squirrels are such troublemakers! LOL
    @ RuthieJ – I never knew you worked at WBU!! Very cool and great you posted the picture of the white/black . . that would be a great picture to blog!
    @ Chicago – they are great and not anywhere in Chicago? Glad they are somewhere in the area though!
    @ Lisa – they are for sure, thanks!
    @ Jeremy – that’s about the same percentage that I see around here! Wonder why you don’t have any up north?? Did you get a deer?
    @ Adam – they are smart and I only dream of no squirrel issues!

    19 November 2007 at 7:45 pm

  33. may I? (might want to put ear plugs in) THAT is SOOOO cool! Check that out – now hopefully your not photoshopping and playing with us. (Is it Aprils fools already?) Serious is this the only species your aware of doing this? Meanwhile, in answer to your question, I encourage them to visit. I just put out a lot more feed. Your blog today was just about the coolest find this month. I am just amazed. wow…..

    20 November 2007 at 12:41 am

  34. @ aullori – they are neat and nope, isn’t April fools time yet! I have seen woodchucks that are melanistic and all black. We had 2 this year but I just couldn’t get its picture!

    20 November 2007 at 7:50 am

  35. Nice pictures – just keep him away from my owl box 🙂

    BTW, I added your blog to my essential reading list at http://www.owlbox.blogspot.com

    Keep up the great work.

    20 November 2007 at 12:59 pm

  36. They’re sooo cute-I like squirrels as much as birds and love to watch them.

    20 November 2007 at 2:49 pm

  37. Grace

    I remember this little guy with the red tail. He was up by the old zoo when I saw him.

    21 November 2007 at 3:05 pm

  38. Interesting. I have never before seen a black squirrel, nor did I realize there was such a critter. Thanks for posting these photos.

    21 November 2007 at 9:01 pm

  39. Very cool to have these around you – and that you have a funky hybrid there, too. I already commented on the one picture on Flickr.

    21 November 2007 at 9:17 pm

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