Describe squirrel nests, how they are built, and where

Dray or drey refers to the nest of tree squirrels and flying squirrels. The nests are normally built using twigs, grass and dry leaves. They are usually called drey nests so that they may be distinguished from cavity nests and dens. In temperate regions, the dreys may be visible during autumn when the falling leaves reveal the new nests that have been built in the summer or in early fall.

The preferred site of the drey is a tree crotch and it can be 30 to 45 feet over the ground level. The squirrels may also make the nest in an attic or behind the walls of a building. In these cases, the drey is considered to be a fire hazard. Squirrels also have the habit of gnawing on electrical cables, which adds to the risk of fire. There are times that squirrels inhabit a permanent tree den found in the hollow of a tree trunk or a large branch.

The word drey comes from early 17th century English, and it means where the squirrels’ nest is found. In North America, the drey typically starts with a collection of gnawed or small branches that bear green leaves. These branches are normally harvested before the autumn when the leaves fall on their own, and they may turn brown so that they may adhere tightly during winter. The finished drey is a hollow sphere which is more than a foot in diameter. The branches with other rough hewn materials may be woven at the outside and the inner surface is lined using other finer materials such as leaves, moss and grass. There can be one and sometimes two entrances or exit holes of the drey, which may be close to the bottom and oriented to the trunk to keep the rain out. A second hole would be an escape route. A flat or incomplete drey could be either a hot weather sleeping platform for squirrels or an abandoned effort by young and inexperienced squirrels.

The drey construction material and size may differ depending on the species of the squirrels and the regions where they are located. The eastern gray squirrels like to use twigs, bark and leaves to build their nests in deciduous trees like beach or elm, while the Southern flying squirrels may employ fungal rhizomorphs, twigs, bark and deciduous leaves in their nests.

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