The eastern gray squirrel is a very common small mammal (rodent) in the mid-Atlantc region. They are tree squirrels (rather than ground squirrels). They usually make their nests in holes in trees or leaf nest at least 25 feet above the ground. They can have 2 litters of 3 to 5 that are born blind after a 44 day gestation period and take 2 months to wean. Occasionally they will take advantage of other places to build their nests. One pair has done that at Norfolk Botanical Garden. They have built their nest in the underside of the current bald eagle nest. Their nest has two entrances – lower left and lower right. Eastern gray squirrels mate in this region in Jan-Feb and June-July. From The Encyclopedia of Mammals by David MacDonald – In tree squirrels and chipmunks, receptive females attract males using chemical signals and vocalizations, then lead the males on long, spectacular mating chases that may last from 4 to 10 hours. I have been seeing that activity in my yard for the past couple weeks.
Today about 4pm I watched as a squirrel emerged from the left underside of the current NBG bald eagle nest several times, and climbed into the nest pocket above. Why? What was it doing? It was stealing pine straw from the bald eagle nest and taking it into its nest in the underside of THEIR – the eagles and squirrels – nest in preparation for breeding season. It is a whole lot closer that going all the way to the ground and back up the tree. Smart squirrel!! Cooperative nesting.
1 – Emerging from its left nest entrance 2 – Picking up pine straw 3 – Holding in its mouth 4 – Scampering back to its nest