This side-by-side comparison of red and gray squirrels illustrates the obvious size difference between the two North American species. Both are frequent visitors to bird feeders, and often seen chasing one another.
Unfortunately in the UK, red squirrel populations appear to be declining mainly due to gray squirrels outcompeting reds due to their ability to feed more efficiently in broadleaved woodlands. Other threats to red squirrels are disease carried by gray squirrels that is fatal to reds, as well as road traffic. Grays can reproduce during times of stress, while reds cannot.
Although both are native to North America, grays are considered an invasive species in the UK.
According to the Forestry Commission, England, the red squirrel, native to Britain, is becoming extremely rare due to the introduction of the American grey squirrel. "There are estimated to be only 140,000 red squirrels left in Britain, with over 2.5 million grey squirrels. The Forestry Commission is working with partners in projects across Britain to develop a long-term conservation strategy that deters greys and encourages reds."
If you are a backyard bird watcher in the United States, have you noticed a decline in the red squirrel population? Many years ago, they used to raise their young in our woods and entertain us daily with their feisty personalities. The above photo is the first red squirrel we've seen in our neck of the woods (New Hampshire) for several years. We spotted one dead on the road last spring, but rarely catch a glimpse of them. Let's hope we aren't faced with the same fate as the UK, and are one day working toward conserving this species.