Squirrels are noisy chatterboxes that often seem to scold or have something to say about what is going on around them. They produce a variety of noises, and one of these is chattering their teeth.
If you have any aspirations to be a second Dr. Dolittle, you may wonder precisely what a squirrel is saying when it chatters its teeth.
Squirrels chatter their teeth as a method of communication. It is usually used as means of showing displeasure and warning that the squirrel may bite or attack. Teeth chattering may also be used when a predator is in the area and is generally accompanied by other vocalizations.
There are three basic types of squirrels; ground squirrels, tree or arboreal squirrels, and flying squirrels. They all communicate by various vocalizations, but flying squirrels are the quietest. All three types of squirrels chatter their teeth to communicate.
What Does a Squirrel Chattering Its Teeth Sound Like?
When a squirrel chatters its teeth, it sounds the same as when we shiver and the teeth from our lower jaw bump against the teeth of our upper jaw. Squirrels have large incisors which can be chattered together vigorously.
The sound is amplified by the shape of the squirrel’s mouth and its cheeks, resulting in a noise that can be heard clearly.
Why Do Squirrels Chatter Their Teeth?
Squirrels use teeth chattering as a means of communication. They have other vocalizations and body language that contribute to their communication. Interestingly another rodent that uses teeth chattering for communication is the guinea pig. They use it in much the same way as squirrels.
Dogs that feel threatened also chatter their teeth to distract the more dominant dog and reassure itself. Many apes chatter their teeth for communication intent that ranges from aggression to appeasement.
Teeth chattering in animals fulfils a social function and can be used in several ways.
What Are Squirrels Saying When They Chatter Their Teeth?
If you own a pet squirrel and it begins chattering its teeth at you, it would be wisest to remove yourself from the squirrel’s vicinity. It is probably chattering its teeth to warn you away. Many squirrel owners report that if they disturb their squirrel while sleeping or try to take away a food item, the squirrel chatters its teeth at them.
The squirrel is giving a fair warning that it is irritated. If the owner persists, they will probably receive a nasty bite. Squirrel owners need to learn these warning signs and avoid annoying their pets.
Wild squirrels use teeth chattering in much the same way as tame squirrels. They communicate displeasure and annoyance with each other. Other squirrels that approach another squirrel’s nut store, invade personal space or territory, and behave in a way that is considered rude may be on the receiving end of a teeth-chattering communique.
Squirrels may also use teeth chattering after a warning bark to alert neighboring squirrels to the presence of danger. The teeth chattering in this instance has two purposes. The first is to heighten the threat warning for other squirrels in the vicinity. The second is to harass and intimidate the predator.
What Body Language Accompanies Squirrel Teeth Chattering?
A flick of the tail may often accompany teeth chattering in squirrels. Foot stamping with teeth chattering expresses extreme displeasure. If a squirrel uses tail flipping, foot-stamping, and a growl with teeth chattering, watch out an attack is imminent!
Squirrels are master communicators, and they use both vocalizations and body language to let predators, people, and other squirrels know exactly what they think or want.
What Other Noises Do Squirrels Make?
Squirrels make a wide range of sounds and are quite vocal animals. They are not afraid to interact with people and other animals vocally, making them more unusual in the animal world.
Some of the vocalizations that you might hear from a squirrel include:
- Barking is used for warning of danger or that the squirrel is angry. Barking can also be repeated with short staccato bursts (kuk-kuk-kuk -Qua) to heighten the intensity of the danger or warning signal.
- Growling indicates the squirrel is very angry and is on the point of attack.
- A loud, high-pitched call that sounds like “seet” indicates a predator in the area. Seet plus a bark is generally used when a squirrel spots a bird of prey.
- A high-pitched squeak or chirp is heard chiefly from baby squirrels or mating squirrels.
- A soft muk -muk sound indicates a squirrel is interested in another squirrel as a potential mate or is trying to be friendly.
Which Are the Noisiest Squirrels?
Flying squirrels are the quietest squirrels and do not show as many vocalizations as other squirrels. They use ultrasonic vocalizations that the human ear cannot hear.
Ground squirrels tend to be less territorial and are more concerned with warning calls of impending danger. They do not produce unnecessary vocalizations as they are vulnerable to both ground and aerial predators. They have developed calls that indicate different predators to tell the squirrel colony precisely what predator is approaching.
Tree squirrels are the noisiest and interact the most vocally with people and other animals. Territorial squirrels such as Red Squirrels or Douglas Squirrels are the noisiest squirrels and the ones people will hear most often.
Communal squirrels are not as noisy as territorial squirrels unless there is a predator in the area. A colony of squirrels all chattering their teeth, barking, and screeching at a predator can be pretty intimidating. The squirrels use this as a means of chasing the predator away.
An interesting phenomenon is that squirrels can develop regional dialects or accents. Several studies have shown that squirrels of the same species produce and use vocalizations differently to squirrels of the same species from a different location. Age and gender also affect the amount of vocalization and the loudness of the noises a squirrel produces.
Squirrels use many noises, vocalizations, and body language to communicate. One of these is teeth-chattering which is generally used to convey annoyance or warning. It may be used as part of squirrels’ vocalizations when harassing or chasing predators.
If you want more backyard tips including recipes, how-tos and more, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel