So join me in this article and find out more about the nocturnal habits of these popular little creatures!
Before we get right into the details, let’s find out the short answer so all you budding planet rangers can understand the bedtimes of squirrels.
Gray and Red squirrels sleep in trees in dreys for up to 7 months of the year. They sleep mostly at night and curl up in the nest or huddle. How a squirrel sleeps depends on its type, where they live, and seasonal climate. Ground squirrels sleep for up to 7 months of the year in underground burrows
We’ve all seen a gray squirrel busy gathering nuts during the fall. This is so he can build up fat reserves to protect and keep him strong during the long cold winter months.
Gray squirrels along with his more colorful cousin the red squirrel, sleep in a comfy nest they have built made of twigs and sticks.
Squirrels sleep in more than one drey
A squirrel of both the gray and red variety has both a cozy winter pad and his summer drey.
This is constructed in a lighter way (like a summer tog duvet!) and may sit between branches rather than the fork of the tree-like his winter den.
Squirrels may sleep together in winter for warmth
The squirrel will lie up in his drey in very cold weather, coming out now and then to search out hidden stores of nuts buried in the ground in autumn.
Winter dreys are often shared for warmth. As it sleeps, the squirrel curls its tail around its body to act as a blanket.
Squirrels often sleep in the fork of trees
The busy little squirrel will then line it (just like a human duvet!) with moss and grass.
The nest is usually built in the fork of a tall tree but can also be constructed in the attic of a house or in the outside walls of a home.
Gray Squirrels will sleep in their nest both during the day and night time when they are resting from their busy foraging activities.
What about baby squirrels? How much sleep do they need and where do they prefer to nestle down?
Where do baby squirrels sleep?
After birth, baby tree squirrels (both red and grey) do not leave the drey. As they are deaf and blind when born, it can take many weeks of sleeping in their drey before they are ready to open their eyes.
Baby squirrels are weaned at about eight weeks. When they are ready to go off on their own, they leave home to establish their own sleeping spots.
Baby squirrels huddle in their nests (dreys)
They prefer to sleep huddled up in their drey with their brothers and sisters for protection from the elements and safety.
So now we’ve found out about how many squirrels like to sleep. You might be wondering whether squirrels nap when the sun is high or whether they are just like humans and prefer to sleep in the dark of night.
Let’s find out.
Do squirrels sleep at night?
Squirrels like many small mammals are ‘Crepuscular’ which means they are particularly active for a couple of hours in the early mornings and late afternoons but during the main body of the day can sleep for as much as 18 to 20 hours.
Many species of squirrels go about their business in daylight hours in daylight hours and will sleep throughout most of the night.
Ground squirrels can be found in their underground burrows at night when they want to catch up on beauty sleep! They are even less active during the day than tree squirrels and as we found out earlier, can sleep for several months at a time!
And to finish on…
I hope you’ve enjoyed my research on how squirrels sleep! Who knew tree squirrels didn’t hibernate!
A squirrel who always seems very active is actually a very long sleeping mammal and so next time you see a squirrel, you’ll know that he was most probably dozing peacefully a short time earlier!
Don’t forget to check out my other articles on squirrels, including what do squirrels eat, and what eats a squirrel!
And lots of other information for budding nature enthusiasts!
We all know how important a restorative 8 hours of sleep is. Without it, humans and much of the animal kingdom couldn’t function.
You might be surprised to learn though that some animals don’t ever have the need for a peaceful slumber lasting the whole night! Here’s a quick list of what some animals actually do to gain sufficient rest…
Here’s a list of animals that do not require a full period of sleep…
Bullfrogs – need no sleep
Giraffes – can take short 10-minute rests
Ostriches – sleep while appearing to be awake
Sea urchins – take rest periods
Swifts – sleep while maintaining flight
Dolphins – show inactive periods
Jellyfish – rest despite having no brain
Fruit flies – vary from fly to fly
Horses – sleep for a short time, lying down or standing up
Elephants – sleep for 2 hours in the wild
Whales – sleep while still swimming
We can categorize most animal sleep patterns in a few ways:-
Animals that require:
Very little sleep
Sleep while being awake
And we’ll go through each of these categories, but here’s how scientists go about categorizing animals’ sleep behavior.
What determines sleep for an animal
How do we know if an animal is asleep at all? It’s actually a complex area.
Some animals, like the horse, will stand and look awake, but equally sometimes will lie down and look asleep. On either occasion, they are gaining a form of sleep. Others are simply “inactive” which can be interpreted as “rest”.
There are lots of nuances, but I’ll try to make sense of them here. Let’s start with how we can best determine sleep.
Circadian rhythm and homeostasis
Scientists can discern the amount of activity the brain is producing by tracking two main internal biological mechanisms. Circadian rhythm and sleep-wake homeostasis combine to regulate and manage sleep and wake patterns.
This in turn allows scientists to determine the amount of rest an animal is receiving over a given period of time and how this affects its function and survival.
When and where they rest can determine their ability to gain much-needed sleep… or rest!
Types of sleep for animals
We can categorize the types of sleep animals get into a few main areas:
Paradoxical sleep (REM)
Much like humans, some animals require a period of time for deeper rest. This includes many burrowing animals and is also adopted by animals that operate best at certain times of the day or night, like beavers, or spiders.
Paradoxical sleep (REM)
Paradoxical sleep is a state of sleep known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Some animals maintain this state regularly and sporadically.
Mostly attributed to marine life, a homeostasis regulation state enables sufficient awareness of the environment and body functions – but at a reduced rate that enables the mind and body to rest and regenerate.
Birds are a very common adopter of a unihemispheric sleep state, allowing them to remain in flight on long journeys while allowing sufficient rest periods.
Hibernation, Torpor, and Estivation
Hibernation is a state of deep sleep adopted for longer periods of time, mainly in order to escape harsh seasons or avoid food shortages. You can find a list of animals that hibernate here.
Estivation is a similar tactic to torpor that helps some animals to reach a lower heart, metabolic rate, and other bodily activities in order to conserve energy and escape heat or water shortages. Examples of animals that use estivation include salamanders, crocodiles, and crabs.
The need for sleep in animals
The types of sleep listed above can be further broken down into three separate categories.
Vital – where sleep is critical for survival
Useful – meaning sleep is helpful to maintain or improve awareness and function
Accessory – where sleep is a luxury and lack of sleep does not impede function
And while I’ve “categorized” animals here for simplicity, it’s important to note that some animals can, and do, cross categories – depending on the situation.
For example, birds when at sea will adopt different sleep patterns to when on land.
So which animals never sleep and which ones sleep sometimes …or can sleep and be awake? Join me in finding out which species in our animal kingdom can be busy without the need for sleep as we know it!
Animals that never sleep
Time to dispel some myths. There is a lot of confusion around which animals can afford never to rest. And in fact, most studies found some signs of sleep in animals, even if that involves a period of rest.
The nearest example proven to be is the bullfrog …and even that has raised further questions on how studies were conducted.
All other animals have shown periods of inactivity which has been scientifically proven to be sleep/rest periods, or where observations have shown periods of inactivity that are likely in some way to be a state of rest.
Bullfrogs do not need to sleep?
So although there’s no rest for the wicked, it appears the bullfrog suffers the same fate!
Many scientists, in fact, do not attribute the word sleep to many reptiles, amphibians, fish, and especially invertebrates. But in fact, indicate that almost all animals conduct a rest period.
Along with this group comes the bullfrog. In scientific studies, it appeared the bullfrog’s reaction to his environment was the same whether he was resting or active. But again, there are question marks over when the bullfrog was actually tested during its potential sleep/rest cycle.
This goes some way for us to understand that the bullfrog is often promoted as an example of an animal that does not sleep in any sense of the word.
Do jellyfish sleep?
It was long believed that jellyfish do not sleep …simply as they do not have a brain and are simply a network of nerve cells. But actually, studies have shown that jellyfish also have a period of rest.
Do sea urchins sleep?
Another example of an animal that was believed to never sleep is the sea urchin.
Sea urchins have not been scientifically tested for official signs of sleep. But sea urchins do undergo periods of rest where inactivity occurs. This is more akin to a state of homeostatic regulation which involves a lowering of body activity levels that many marine animals undertake to recuperate.
Let’s move on to those animals that need very little sleep in order to survive.
Animals that need very little sleep
Here’s a list of animals that are able to sleep very little compared to us humans.
Elephants – elephants get 2 hours of sleep in the wild
Elephants can go up to 46 hours without sleep. They sleep lying down, when in groups some stay awake to guard, while others sleep. They need little sleep, averaging around 2 hours of sleep per night. In captivity, this is nearer 4 – 6 hours due to reduced dangers and pressure to find food and water.
Elephants tend to sleep fewer hours of sleep during long-distance herd movements. During these periods there’s a need to avoid lions and poachers. The matriarch is the elephant that gets less sleep due to the pressures of leading the herd.
As elephants sleep for a given period of time in one go, they are known as Monophasic sleep, this is common among many mammals and also applies to humans.
The same sleep pattern applies to similar species such as hippopotamus, but the hippo usually sleeps for longer periods than an elephant.
Hippos can sleep up to 16 hours a day, and are mostly active at night. They can sleep adequately lying on the ground, but will often rest while seated in shallow water. And although they can hold their breath for 30 minutes underwater, they will usually sleep with their head above the waterline.
Giraffe – giraffes use paradoxical sleep
Although most animals and all mammals need to sleep to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every morning, the giraffe has evolved to require very little sleep.
Giraffes sleep for 30 minutes at a time often consisting of drifting in and out for 5-10 minute periods. They sleep for up to about 4 – 4.5 hours per day. Giraffes sleep lying down and curling their head around onto their body, but can also sleep standing up. They can even sleep with one eye open.
They’re not the only animals that can sleep lightly and with one eye open. This high-alert sleep strategy is sometimes employed by other animals such as fruit bats, dolphins, and mallard ducks.
It’s important that we understand that many animals rest, but aren’t necessarily asleep in the human sense.
Horses – a horse uses paradoxical sleep patterns
Similar to their long-necked African cousins the giraffe, horses have perfected the art of paradoxical sleep.
Like the giraffe, this sleep will often be with one eye open and is usually only for a short period of time.
Horses will usually close their eyes to sleep deeply when lying down, similar to how humans understand sleep. But this is usually only when protected by the herd or where they feel safe. Otherwise, like the giraffe, horses might fall under the next category of “appearing to be awake while they sleep”.
This kind of restful sleep for a horse won’t usually last long and is generally in the same kind of time span as a giraffe, so between 10 minutes and an hour.
So let’s now dive deeper into our oceans and look at whether sea creatures sleep. Let’s look at one of our largest mammals, the whale.
Whales – a whale uses homeostatic regulation to sleep
It’s important to realize that when we talk of sleep for animals, It’s often unlikely to be exactly like the kind of sleep we enjoy.
For most animals, including whales, it can best be described as a state of altered consciousness or less response to changes in their environment. This is as discussed earlier and known as homeostatic regulation,
Our most loved marine mammals such as whales, and dolphins reduce their responses in short bursts so they don’t drown.
Many whales can be seen resting motionless on the sea surface for around 30 minutes or so. If they rest any longer, they may lose too much body temperature by being inactive.
Somewhat surprisingly according to animal scientists, dolphins and killer whales mothers and babies can go without sleep for up to four months after being born.
Similar to their larger and more powerful cousins the whale, dolphins also have developed the unique craft of power napping.
They will sleep on the surface of the ocean in the same way as whales for periods of approx 30 minutes.
So although similar to humans, Dolphins need about eight hours of sleep a day, they sleep in a totally different way and they sleep almost in shifts.
They have a unique resting system which means the right brain rests while the left is awake and alert. The reason for this is similar to their larger cousins, whales, who need to make sure their body functions just enough not to drown!
Animals that appear awake when they’re asleep
Here are a couple of examples of animals that are in fact asleep, or rest to some degree, but will look like they’re awake.
Ostrich – an ostrich uses paradoxical sleep patterns
So does an ostrich get any sleep as we understand it?
Although an ostrich is gaining sufficient rest and sleep time, they look like they’re awake, cleverly he looks wide awake or maybe just a little drowsy!
According to scientific studies, ostriches generally sleep in their special way around 8.5 hours a night. This makes them Diurnal creatures. With around 2 hours of that being REM sleep, rapid eye movement (which in humans relates to memory and creativity).
The ostrich, along with his similar sleeping pattern the ancient platypus, is one of the oldest animals in the world and their type of sleep is probably linked to their prehistoric roots.
Here’s a short observation video that demonstrates this in action.
Swift – the swift uses unihemispheric sleep
The swift is a remarkable bird. It spends much of its time on the wing. So they even hunt and mate while flying.
According to the New Scientist, swift’s spend an incredible 10 months of every year in flight. So it’s no great surprise that they will sleep on the wing too.
As humans expect a nice comfy bed and a full 8 hours, this super-fast little bird doesn’t sleep as we know it.
There is some discussion amongst the animal fraternity that they rest in a similar way to whales and Dolphins using homeostatic regulation. This is by switching off one half of their brain while the other half remains alert. But in fact, most birds use a system called unihemispheric sleep as described above.
According to scientific studies, Although swifts can rest in flight they sleep minimally, around 7 to 10 minutes a day while flying.
This contrasts with nearly 13 hours a day once landed. Let’s go into another winged member of the animal kingdom, the fruit fly.
As continued proof of the diversity of the animal kingdom, there always seems to be exceptions! So here’s one exception that has been found from studies. There are likely to be more that have simply not been studied yet.
Fruit flies – the fruit fly sleep patterns vary from fly to fly
In surprising studies, it’s been uncovered that fruit flies are unique in the fact some of them rest for 10 hours a day, but some of them do not rest or sleep at all!
This has turned what we think we know about sleep on its head!
Scientific studies on fruit flies prove that sleep in both humans and animals can be divided into the three categories of vital, useful, and accessory.
And it appears fruit flies are unique in the fact that some of them take on board all three categories whilst others none!
The same exception category could also include rats, pigeons, and cockroaches who can exist for 20 to 30 days at a time without sleep.
Herons are water loving birds known for their elegant and almost prehistoric silhouette.
Today we will take an in-depth look into the complete heron diet, including how the heron dines across the day and across the seasons such as winter and summer …and why!
I’ll also give detailed information about everything a heron likes to eat! But before we get started, let’s first look at the quick takeaway answer.
While fish provide the majority of a heron’s diet, herons also stalk everything from insects to small mammals, such as flies and rodents. Their adaptability and razor-like long beak ensure they enjoy a variety of amphibians, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, worms, birds, and the occasional reptile.
Before we start looking at a comprehensive diet list of these elegant birds, so that we can understand a little more easily about the types of food they eat, it’s good to know they are classed as wading birds.
What herons eat
Herons are a meat eating predatory water bird that is a top carnivorous predator in its own habitat. They’re also exceptional and persistent hunters and can spend up to 90 percent of their active hours hunting for food.
Herons are skilled hunters
All herons including the gray and the great blue herons are excellent fishers. They can be found stealthily wading through shorelines of a lake, river, or streams, patiently waiting for their next meal.
As soon as a likely candidate approaches. The heron will stretch out their very long neck and stand motionless.
Then, with their blade-like bill, herons will strike at the optimum moment to deftly catch their prey once the moment is right.
Herons diet consists mainly of fish
As a heron’s habitat is mainly near water, it’s not surprising to discover that fish are the mainstay of his diet during the summer.
A heron can be found by any kind of waterway such as lakes, rivers, ponds, marshes and on the sea coast – and even in your backyard pond. He is well known for helping himself to an ornamental fish or two!
Types of fish a heron eats
The types of fish a heron will eat include the following:
Any type of ornamental fish
Striped and standard perch
The type of fish a heron has access to does depend largely on its habitat. Here are some examples of where a heron’s diet may vary based on availability…
In Nova Scotia, it’s unsurprising to discover that herons have a diet primarily of flounders.
In British Columbia where sticklebacks, gunnels, sculpins and perch are commonly found, herons will most likely dine on them most frequently.
California herons were found to live mostly on sculpin, bass, perch, flounder, and top smelt. Topsmelt is found in a wide range of habitats which depend on the time of year. It’s most commonly found in Sandy beaches, along with the shore kind, and in some forest habitats.
Herons eat crustaceans
Herons of all varieties are also partial to a crustacean too and as an opportunist feeder, he will also supplement his diet with:
Herons eat birds and their eggs
Although we can understand a heron is likely to help himself to a fish supper at any opportunity, it might surprise you to find out he will also eat small birds.
Birds that are more likely to be found in his menu are ones found in and around his usual watery habitat.
Baby and small gulls,
Small water birds
Herons eat birds eggs
Herons will seek to locate and eat birds eggs. And size is not normally an issue. A heron can swallow eggs whole from all bird species its likely to come in contact with.
So as ducks are a popular visitor to the areas where herons hunt, you might be wondering whether herons eat ducks
Let’s discover more…
Herons eat ducks
Ducks play an essential role in the diet of many types of heron. He can be found eating baby ducks from the beginning of the spring months, right through to the end of summer.
This coincides with the duck breeding season. Ducks form an important part of a heron’s varied and complex dietary needs.
Herons eat mammals
A heron will supplement his diet with any kind of small mammal and have even been known to attack and eat large rats.
Along with the usual water dwelling mammals, he will eat a variety of mammals who share his habitat. These can include:
Herons do not generally eat larger fowl such as chickens and larger ducks. Size is an issue, meaning herons cannot swallow the prey whole and instead would need to pluck feathers in order to tear up the carcass. Herons do not get involved in plucking feathers when there is easier prey available.
Let’s take a look at two of our more popular herons and find out a little more about what they eat.
Blue herons diet
A blue heron along with its cousins the gray and large blue herons are built for hunting around shallow, slow moving water.
This habitat allows them to successfully hunt for prey likely to be living in such watery areas with their razor sharp beak and statue-like hunting style.
Blue herons will also eat ducks. In fact, much like gray herons, a duckling up to a few weeks old can be devoured by a blue heron.
Great blue herons
Here’s some facts and further diet information on the great blue herons:-
The great blue heron is very closely related to its less colourful cousin the grey heron. It’s for this reason their diets are very similar.
Great blue herons will eat almost anything within striking distance of their razor sharp long beak.
While fish makes up the majority of their diet, anything from insects and even small mammals can be on the Great Blue Heron’s daily menu.
Great blue herons will hunt both during the day and the night. They have specially adapted eyes which help them to see in the dark.
The gray heron is a smaller bird weighing between 2.25 lb – 4.59 lb (1.02–2.08 kg) as opposed to the mighty great blue who interestingly can weigh less than his less tall relative at (4.01 lb – 7.95 lb (1.82–3.6 kg).
Great blue herons have specialized feathers on their chest that will grow continuously and fray into a powder. This powder can be used to help clean off fish slime which makes up a large proportion of this majestic bird’s diet.
What herons eat in winter
Many herons return repeatedly to specific feeding sites, with the better ones defended against other herons
In winter, herons continue their diet of a variety of aquatic food, but most larger fish move to deeper waters as the temperature drops so herons broaden their intake to include a wider range of prey. At these times, occasionally a heron will make a meal of a rabbit, mouse, squirrel, or water vole.
They often also add to the protein intake by foraging for worms in flooded fields.
Herons are expert ice fishermen
Many herons are skilled ice fishermen. Which can most definitely be said of the large blue heron.
He will sit waiting patiently by an ice hole for many hours before he plunges his razor sharp bill into the icy water after a fish.
Herons steal other hunters prey
Some anecdotal evidence also suggests that herons will employ its own food catcher in the form of diving ducks! As the duck retrieves the fish, the heron will immediately swoop down to intimidate the duck and steal its supper.
Do herons eat at night?
Most herons do not hunt at night, an exception is the night heron, of which there are a few species. Might herons hunt at night and rest during the day. Like most herons, they remain still until an opportune moment appears to strike their prey. Night herons feed on the same food as other herons.
Let’s take a look at a couple of other examples of what herons eat.
Do herons eat frogs?
Herons will eat frogs, toads, newts, water snakes, and even slightly larger tadpoles. They will also eat other water residents such as eels, turtles and salamanders. A heron is unlikely to eat frogspawn as they usually aim for single bodied animal targets.
Here’s a selection of other popular and related articles to expand your learning further…
So when are animals active? Humans can be active at all hours of the day and night. Some are busy working during the day, whilst others, a night shift.
But what about our furry friends from the Animal Kingdom? Are some animals only active during the daytime? And which animals get on with their lives during the hours of darkness and even before the sun rises?
Let’s discover more about when animals are active in my helpful post, giving you all you need to know about when the animal kingdom gets busy! Here’s a quick roundup to start us off…
Around 70% of animals are active at night – Nocturnal. Diurnal animals are active during daylight hours. Crepuscular refers to animals active around dusk (Vespertine), and/or dawn (Matutinal). Cathemeral (or Metaturnal) animals’ activity varies based on behavior and other factors.
Animals vary in their active hours due to many factors. We’ll explore these a little more shortly.
But let’s start by exploring more about why animals – similar to their shift-working humans – often have different active periods during 24 hours.
Here’s an infographic that outlines the approximate periods of the day and night when these periods occur.
Why animals are active at different times, days and seasons.
In general, evolution in the animal kingdom has taken place which fully takes advantage of all opportunities.
The unique roles of each animal have evolved to ensure that they can utilize and optimize their environment and the world around them.
For this reason, some creatures take advantage of daylight hours. Others, roughly 70%, have evolved to live and hunt in the darker, cooler, and more humid nighttime.
Sharing the environment
The lighter, warmer, and dryer environment of daytime suits many creatures, including most of the primate kingdom.
By sharing the load day and night, animals can max out their environment and occupy the same territory without the need for competition for space.
This is more important when it comes to the challenge for food and hunting grounds.
Animals activity depends on many factors
An animal’s wakeful times can depend on many factors. These can include:
The ecosystem makes use of symbiotic activity times
The whole ecosystem is designed in intricate measure around these kinds of concepts. For example, plants follow rules evolved by their diurnal and nocturnal pollinators.
Many flowers will open during the morning in order to attract bees that are more active during the earlier part of the day.
Alternatively, some flowers, like the moonflower, open during the evening until after sunrise in order to attract nighttime pollinators. They even have white flowers that help them to be found at night. And often fragrances from night bloomers can be heightened.
So let’s explore deeper by looking at creatures that are ready to start their day when the sun comes up.
Diurnal creatures wake and sleep with the rising and the setting of the sun. For instance, a turtle may be diurnal because it is cold-blooded.
So it will need to acclimatize to the temperature around it – but also to warm itself, it needs to bask in the sun.
That means that it has to be awake and active during the day.
Bald eagles and hawks are also awake with sunrise as this is when their prey is active, such as squirrels, and chipmunks.
This is what we have more commonly known as a ‘body clock’ which controls behavior rhythms such as:
As I mentioned earlier, most primates are diurnal (which includes humans). Other common diurnal creatures include many mammals, birds, and reptiles.
Being busy during both day and night is the most common animal activity group.
Initially, most animals were diurnal, but adaptations that allowed some animals to become nocturnal are why many – especially mammals – evolved successfully.
This move to nighttime living and hunting allowed animals to avoid certain predators …and hunt with less competition.
Nocturnal animals have developed over the years with many useful traits to help them live and be active in the dark. Including:
Visual sensitivity to distinguish colors, and to detect faint movements
Learning visual landmarks
Orienting to the faint polarization pattern produced by the moon,
Navigating by using the constellations of stars in the sky.
Body clock and nocturnal animal activity
As we saw earlier, it’s the body clock or circadian rhythms that are responsible for the ability of nocturnal animals to change their behavior in response to light and dark.
A nocturnal animal also has ‘clocks’ within its internal organs such as pancreas, heart, and liver which help to determine when it is active either feeding or fasting, during the hours of darkness.
Examples of nocturnal animals are bats, skunks, aardvarks, and owls. You’ll find another list of examples further below.
Let’s move on to crepuscular activity…
Crepuscular comprises two groups. Matutinal animals are more active at dawn, such as deer and coyotes. And vespertine animals are active during twilight hours, such as moths and bats. Many crepuscular animals fall into both and are considered to have a bimodal activity pattern, such as rabbits.
The term matutinal is derived from the Latin word mātūtīnus, meaning ‘pertaining to the morning’. Whereas vespertine is derived from the Latin word vesper, simply meaning evening.
Dawn includes the hours where light from the sun provides visibility, but the sun has not yet crested the horizon. Twilight is the time of day that falls between day and night when there is light still available, but the sun is below the horizon. Twilight is also known as dusk or predawn.
This is different from animals that are nocturnal and diurnal.
Some active crepuscular animals may also be acting during days with low light levels, such as an overcast day, or active during the night when there is more light, such as by moonlight.
Many animals are crepuscular
Similar to their diurnal relatives, Many familiar mammal species are crepuscular, including some bats, hamsters, housecats, stray dogs, rabbits, ferrets, and rats.
Other crepuscular mammals include members of the large cat family such as jaguars, ocelots, bobcats, wombats, wallabies, and hyenas.
Some birds such as the barn owl and nightjar fall into the crepuscular – vespertine group. A vast array of insects including many moths are also active during the hours of dusk and twilight.
So we can understand a little more easily about crepuscular animals, let’s discover matutinal and vespertine animals who slot into crepuscular activity at either end of the day.
Matutinal is a crepuscular animal that is active more during the early morning or predawn. Predawn is the hour before the sun rises.
It’s during this time these animals are active and busy carrying out their important business for the day, such as foraging, hunting, or mating.
During these hours there may be more food available than for their nocturnal cousins, which has ensured their adaptation.
It may also help these animals to avoid predation by other animals who are active during the day and nighttime.
Matutinal examples include bees, gerbils, rats, and other rodents.
The name ‘Vesper’ was a type of prayer practiced back in medieval times relating to the evening. It’s from this word we arrived at an animal who is known as a vespertine.
These animals use the low light of dusk before sunset to hunt and mate. Low light levels mean they can hunt more effectively.
These animals use the diffused light to hunt out their diurnal prey who may be tired from a day’s activity and are more able to catch them unawares.
The vespertine group of animals mainly includes insects, such as moths and flies, and species of bats and owls.
Similar to their matutinal cousins, these animals can also fall into the crepuscular group – but will hunt mainly at twilight rather than early morning.
Cathemeral animals are categorized as active either as nocturnal (nighttime), diurnal (daytime), or crepuscular (dawn and/or dusk). And distribute their time evenly among these categories. Some animals can move across from one category to another where it suits them to do so.
Reasons for an animal being cathemeral can include factors such as the availability of food, chances of predation, or temperature fluctuations during different seasons.
Below I’ve added a roundup of the category names and their typical hours of activity…
Hours of activity
1-2 hours before sunrise
1-2 hours after sunset
Cathemeral (or Metaturnal)
Times vary, daily and/or seasonally
Example animals for each category
Here’s a list of examples of animals that fall into each of these categories. There are exceptions though. For example, most birds are Diurnal, but the Owl is mostly nocturnal. The bobcat is crepuscular in both matutinal and vespertine time periods but can also be cathemeral.
Cathemeral (or Metaturnal)
And to finish on…
I hope you’ve enjoyed this helpful article which has given you some information on classifications of animals according to their activity!
It’s amazing to think that for the animal kingdom, all times of the day and night can be busy, busy, busy!
If you would like to find out more facts and information about your favorite animals, don’t forget to check out my other articles! Here’s are some of the most popular articles…
But wait, aren’t lions and tigers on different continents? So how can tigers mate with lions? Well, yes they are – mostly in different areas. And they would be seen as competitors in the wild, but there are circumstances when they do mate and produce offspring.
Let’s give you a quick answer, then we’ll get into more detail on their mating patterns and much more.
Tigers and lions can mate, and produce hybrids. Successful mating between a male lion and a female tiger produces “Liger”. And mating between a male tiger and a female Lion produces “Tigon”. However, most of this mating is done in captivity or is inseminated and does not occur in the wild.
With many hybrid animals becoming popular, many animals have caught the attraction of animal lovers around the world.
Some famous hybrid animals that people admire or see as some exotic luxury are hybrids that come from cross-breeding. Dogs are a classic example of this. Another rare one though is breeding between tigers and lions.
So this brings us to the more specific questions of – can tigers mate with lions? or… can lions mate with tigers.
Tigers can mate with lions
Not only can tigers mate with lions, but they can also produce some interesting offspring.
Hybrids between tigers and lions are becoming something of trophy animal that’s sold for huge profits – and has created several zoo attraction sites.
But the most interesting thing about their mating pattern is that tigers and lions don’t mate naturally or in the wild often.
Mating between tigers and lions (or vice versa), does not occur naturally …but is a result of insemination. Or, contrived mating under captivity.
This is because lions are from Africa and Tigers are from Asia and, generally speaking, they have no way of interacting, let alone mating in the wild.
So mating that occurs between a tiger and a lion is a man-made occurrence, and not considered a natural species. However, the succinct answer is yes, mating and producing hybrids is possible between a lion and a tiger.
Ligers and tigons
Depending on who the mother and the father are, the name used to address or call these hybrids will differ.
When tigers mate with lions and produce hybrids it’s called a “Liger” or “Tigon”. The father species is denoted first in the hybrid name.
When the male (father) is a lion and the female (mother) is a tiger, the hybrid is called “Liger”.
If the male (father) is a tiger and the female (mother) is a tiger, the hybrid is called “Tigon”.
However, there are several characteristic differences and special markings between a tigon and a liger.
These differences arise because of the mating partners. Meaning, depending on who the mother and the father are denotes the characteristics the resulting hybrid will have.
Mating that occurs between a male lion and a female tiger is what produces ligers.
There are approximately 100 ligers that exist in the world. And the largest liger that exists in the world weighs around 900 pounds. Ligers normally weigh twice as much as an average tiger or lion.
When comparing this mating pattern of producing ligers (male lion and female tiger), these hybrids are understood to suffer several health conditions.
One of the main physical characteristics unique to ligers or hybrids because of this mating is gigantism. Gigantism is where the liger never stops growing and expands in size.
To date, there is no proper evidence on why ligers or hybrids suffer this condition. But because of gigantism ligers suffer a number of weaknesses, such as bone, joint, and muscle issues.
When considering the mix of the parent’s species, ligers inherit 50/50 traits from the characteristics of a lion and a tiger.
They have a tawny (light brown) color coating and skin with the stripes of a tiger. If you saw a liger, you would distinctly notice both a tiger and a lion in one animal.
Mating between a male tiger and a female lion
Mating that happens between a male lion and a female tiger produces a tigon. Tigons also have similar traits to ligers, but they are smaller. Tigons in contrast to ligers receive a growth-inhibiting hormone from both parents, so because of this, they are much smaller than an adult lion or tiger.
Is mating between tiger and lions healthy?
Firstly, it’s very rare that different species would want to cross or mate with each other. And more specifically, if it’s species that are not meant to naturally breed together, the consequences are not only unnatural, they can be tragic.
This is why ligers and tigons suffer from several genetic defects. They generally suffer, grow weaker, and inevitably die at a younger age.
The mortality rate of ligers and tigons is relatively high. Often the hybrids from a lion and a tiger mating suffer from frequent bouts of cancer, organ failure, and other body deformities.
It has to be said that, especially with ligers weighing heavier than average cubs, it makes it very difficult for the mother tiger to carry them during labor. The mother can potentially fo go through labor complications – often requiring a C-section and sometimes ending with the mother dying during labor.
Also, males of the liger and tigons are sterile so they can’t reproduce. However, the female ligers and tigons, unlike many hybrids, can reproduce with a male tiger and a male lion.
So the reproduction ratio of these hybrids is very low and unreliable to the cat species.
Ligers and tigons do not contribute to the biodiversity of the cat species. The association of Zoos and Aquariums also recognizes that these mating and hybrids are harming the educational efforts and conservation of big cat species.
So why do lions and tigers mate?
It’s very rare for lions and tigers to mate out of attraction or species diversification purposes. Mainly as they mostly live in different geographic regions, and they would be seen as natural competitors. Those that reproduce are done so in captivity by insemination, or by coercion.
Much of the forceful, or contrived mating and breeding are carried out mainly for the purpose of exploitation, and profits.
We all love to see a squirrel scampering across a yard or in the park nibbling on his autumn stash of nuts.
But I’m often asked about a range of squirrel-related questions. Along with their general diet, many budding Ranger planet detectives might be wondering do squirrels eat birds?
So let’s start with the definitive answer before we delve a little deeper.
Squirrels will eat small birds. As opportunistic omnivores, occasional meat content provides additional nutritional value that they will take advantage of. They do not actively pursue birds, but If they come upon a suitable nest, squirrels will feed on the eggs, chicks, and any bird carcasses.
All types of squirrel’s diets will depend largely on their environment. Here’s the full guide I added on what squirrels eat.
I reached out to a wildlife rescue organization to get their expert opinion on this question. The Linjoy Wildlife Sanctuary and Rescue regularly deal with squirrels and provide care for them. I asked them, do squirrels eat birds. In a nutshell, they said – “yes, all squirrels will readily take birds if they can get them”.
So with the quick answer and expert confirmation in mind, so that we can understand a little more easily whether squirrels eat birds, it’s important to find out the different types of squirrels. It could be that some types eat birds and others don’t!
So read on to find out more. Let’s start with one of the most common squirrels, grey squirrels, and see if they are likely to eat birds.
Do gray squirrels eat birds?
Gray squirrels are omnivores (which means they eat both plant and animal matter).
Usually, when you see a cute grey squirrel on your tv, he’s usually busy stashing or nibbling on nuts, fruits, and seeds.
However gray squirrels are opportunistic feeders and will essentially eat anything they can find! This also confirms what the wildlife experts stated about squirrels eating birds if they can get them.
This not only extends to the carcass of a dead bird, but also they are well known for ransacking birds’ nests and taking eggs.
Now we’ve found out that the grey squirrel will predate birds, and will also feed on a dead bird’s carcass. Let’s discover whether the less abundant red squirrel is likely to do the same.
“gray squirrels are opportunistic omnivores, and will essentially eat anything they can find!”
Do red squirrels eat birds?
Red squirrels along with their less colorful counterparts are also known to feed on birds.
Interestingly, although their diet is similar, they are known to be far more carnivores than their grey cousins.
Although they look adorable nibbling on a nut, they will not only eat young birds, but they will also take and eat bird eggs. Here’s some footage of just such an occasion…
During their busy day of foraging for food, they are well known as nest robbers similar to gray squirrels.
It’s also not unknown for all types of squirrels to eat rats and snakes when their usual diet of nuts, seeds, and fruit is scarce or as a need to supplement their diet.
Do ground squirrels eat birds?
Similar to both gray and red squirrels, ground squirrels are omnivores which means they enjoy a variety of plants, with a healthy side of meat where possible.
A ground squirrel’s diet will consist of nuts, buds, grains, and seeds, including wheat and corn wheat, and corn. But they may bolster this diet with meant to obtain additional minerals and vitamins.
They are not that fussy, so they may also eat frogs, insects, bird eggs, and fungi.
Do flying squirrels eat birds?
In the same way as their flightless relatives, flying squirrels will also eat a dead bird. The Southern flying squirrel is usually found living in deciduous and coniferous forests and woodland areas.
Like the other types of tree squirrels, their diet will usually consist of vegetation, fruits, nuts, and berries. They are opportunistic eaters which means that they will eat any type of edible nutrition source they can find.
Flying squirrels won’t eat large birds
In the same way as the rest of the squirrel family, flying squirrels will not attempt to eat larger birds that they deem too big in size to easily overcome.
However, flying squirrels will usually follow the same process as other squirrels as mostly they will steal and eat birds’ eggs – before resorting to eating a grown bird.
So now we’ve discovered that these cute little bundles of fur are not averse to adding some extra protein and nutrients in the form of birds to supplement their diet, let’s find out why they eat birds.
“In the same way as their flightless relatives, flying
squirrels will also eat a dead bird.”
Why do squirrels eat birds?
They eat foods outside of their typical diet when presented with an easy option. So recently fledged, or baby birds in a nest are an easy target for squirrels of all varieties.
Squirrels see these vulnerable birds as a quick source of calcium, protein, and many other vitamins and minerals.
They not only eat them but also potentially compete with woodland birds for nest sites, especially types of birds using large cavities or nest boxes.
What happens when squirrels eat birds?
According to recent research, in some woods, anecdotal information suggests that squirrels not only compete with birds for food, and are likely to eat them, but that they also prevent some types of owls such as tawny owls from breeding.
This competition for food and the possibility they will eat recently fledged or motherless birds can contribute to a decline in woodland bird numbers across the world.
But will a squirrel actively hunt out birds to eat? Let’s find out…
Do squirrels kill birds to eat?
As we saw in the short answer, a squirrel will most likely not deliberately hunt down birds to eat. In general, squirrels of all varieties will not set out to kill or attack birds.
However, if there is a shortage of food supply in their habitat they will not only eat baby birds but have also been known to feed on baby rabbits.
They will usually not attack a fully grown or larger bird.
So now we’ve understood that squirrels not only eat birds but in some cases are actively responsible for the decline of some woodland birds, you might be wondering if they eat birdseed?
Read on to find out if Birdseed is a tasty morsel for the carnivorous red, grey, flying, and ground squirrel!
Do squirrels eat birdseed?
We’ve all witnessed an opportunist gray squirrel taking his chances on a backyard bird feeder. So it’s fairly well known that these fluffy critters like a tasty snack on birdseed.
One of their favorite additions to their diet is nibbling on birdseed and suet balls. Both red and gray squirrels will eat birdseed. Another favorite food of a squirrel is sunflower seeds.
You will often find them hanging from a sunflower devouring the many seeds they contain. They will often eat sunflower seeds first on any bird feeder.
Although they don’t generally inhabit areas close to humans, ground squirrels, along with flying squirrels are less likely to eat birdseed to supplement their diet.
And to finish on…
So that’s the real answer as to – do squirrels eat birds? …confirmed by an expert!
Although they are less likely to attack a bird, we have seen that squirrels of many varieties will include birds in their diet.
If you want to know more about squirrels and animals in general, then here are a few related topics to check out…