Fox Squirrel vs Grey Squirrel (Why Is My Birdfeeder Empty?)

© Bruce MacQueen/

Written by Peralee Knight

Published: April 4, 2022

Share on:


There are over two hundred species of squirrels, and you can find them worldwide. With their bushy tails and love of birdfeeders, tree squirrels are one of the most adorable backyard menaces! But that squirrel outside your window might be bigger than your average seed thief. Now you are trying to figure out if it is a fox squirrel or a grey squirrel. We like to think that led you here, so let us get into the differences between these two.

Fox Squirrel vs Grey Squirrel: Comparison

The Fox squirrel is significantly larger than the Grey squirrel.

The major differences between the Fox squirrel and the Grey squirrel are size, appearance, and behavior.

One of these species is larger, along with a few other squirrels as well. The Fox squirrel and the Grey squirrel share many behavioral characteristics common to other tree squirrels. Both species collect and store food in multiple locations and nest in tree hollows. Both have a common diet that consists of nuts, seeds, and berries.

The differences are explained below.

Fox Squirrel vs Grey Squirrel: Size

The Fox squirrel is larger, in fact, double the size of a Grey squirrel. Fox squirrels are up to thirty inches long, including the 12-inch-long tail, and weigh up to 2.5 pounds. The Fox squirrel is often brown or rusty red, though solid black is also a rare variation.

In addition to being half the size of the Fox squirrel at up to twenty inches long, including the tail and an average weight of one pound or less, Grey squirrels also have a shorter tail. This is around ten inches in length, two inches shorter than the Fox squirrels.

Fox Squirrel vs Grey Squirrel: Appearance

The Grey squirrel can be identified by its light grey fur, white belly, and lack of ear tufting.


Grey squirrels lack ear tufts and often have a white belly. They are lighter grey overall, though they may have brown facial fur. The Grey squirrel also has white markings on the tip and underside of the tail. Rare variations in color seen are black fur or white, non-albino coloring.

Fox squirrels have tufted ears and a rust-colored belly, though this may vary by subspecies. Fox squirrels also have black stripe markings on the tail and may have slight amounts of dark grey fur.

Fox Squirrel vs Grey Squirrel: Behavioral Characteristics

close up of a fox squirrel

Fox squirrels are tree squirrels, but they spend more time on the ground than in a tree.

©Nico Giuliani/

While Fox squirrels are considered tree squirrels, they spend much of their time foraging on the ground. They store food caches in multiple burrows underground that are separate from nests. They forage on the ground for much of the day and retreat to trees at night. Fox squirrels prefer forested areas with sparser canopies and tolerate woodlands with open meadows or plains. The Fox squirrel is diurnal, meaning it is most active during the daylight hours.

On average, Grey squirrels stay in trees rather than spending a lot of time on the ground. The Grey squirrel prefers a territory with dense groupings of trees and less open areas. Like the Fox squirrel, it may store food in underground burrows but tend to prefer the higher ground.

The Grey squirrel is crepuscular, meaning they are most active in the early morning or late afternoon. During the midday and evening, they spend their time in their nests.

Do Fox Squirrels And Grey Squirrels Fight?

The Grey and Fox squirrel share a common habitat in North America, though the Grey is also found in the U.K. However, each type has preferences for locations. They do not run into each other often, and when they do, they do not interbreed.

Squirrels are not often aggressive toward each other and are solitary. While the Fox squirrel and the Grey squirrel may share territories, their habitats are small. The Grey and the Fox squirrel establish locations that span a few acres. They often spend their entire lives in the same area and seldom encounter each other.

Since both species have a small territory, they do not need to compete for food. However, they are both adjusted to human areas and known to be a bit of a menace!

Squirrels Are Daring!

fox squirrel scratching its belly

Squirrels are less afraid of humans than other small prey mammals.

©Vaclav Matous/

Many squirrels are more daring than other small mammals. Both the Fox and Grey squirrel will approach human dwellings. This causes them to be viewed both as a unique backyard visitor or an outright menace depending on the homeowner. Squirrels in suburban and urban areas have been known to accept food from someone’s hand.

Alas, both species are known to dig holes in yards, strip the bark from trees, and decimate the contents of your birdfeeder. The empty birdfeeder mystery may never be solved, but when figuring out whether you are seeing a Fox or Grey squirrel in your yard, time and place give the squirrel away!

Share this post on:

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.