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Squirrel Nest vs. Bird Nest: 3 Ways To Tell The Difference 

You can tell the difference between a squirrel’s nest and a bird’s nest by the shape, size, and weave style. Tree squirrels’ nests are round and larger birds’ nests. The weave style of squirrel nests is haphazard compared to bird nests.  

How do you tell a squirrel nest apart from a bird’s nest? There are many ways to do this, but the easiest is to look for distinct characteristics.

To find out, let’s take a closer look at the different types of squirrel and bird nests, how they are made, and what telltale signs you can use to spot the difference. 

Squirrel Nest vs. Bird Nest: Overview 

Different types of squirrels and birds build different types of nests. These include nests between tree branches, in tree cavities, on the ground, and in underground burrows. 

There are three general types of squirrels:

  1. Ground squirrel
  2. Tree squirrel
  3. Flying squirrel 

Ground squirrels nest in burrows in the ground. Tree squirrels and flying squirrels build nests between tree branches in summer. 

In winter, they prefer building nests inside tree cavities. 

Different types of birds also build different types of nests.

The different types of bird nests[1] include:

  • Secluded place nests
  • Scrape nests
  • Mound nests
  • Platform nests
  • Pendant nests
  • Sphere nests
  • Cup nests
  • Cavity nests
  • Burrow nests.

What Does A Squirrel’s Nest Look Like? 

Squirrel nests look like large, messy sphere-shaped bird nests. 

Squirrels’ round tree nests, also known as squirrel drays, are similar to the sphere nests built by birds such as the Marsh wren. 

Squirrel Nest vs Bird Nest Overview 

What Does A Bird’s Nest Look Like?  

The shape, materials, and location of bird nests vary depending on the type of bird.  

Some birds build elaborate woven nests while there are birds that don’t build nests at all but scratch a small impression in the ground and lay their eggs in it. 

Squirrel Nest vs. Bird Nest Differences 

The differences between squirrel nests and bird nests include size, shape, materials used, and building process used. Squirrels build nests with their paws and mouths, while birds use their beak to weave their nests. 

For the sake of comparing squirrel nests with bird nests, we will be looking at nests that are typically built in trees:

  1. Cup nests
  2. Platform nests 
  3. Pendant nests 
  4. Sphere nests 
Squirrel Nest v. Bird Nest Differences Tree Squirrel NestBirds Nests 
MaterialTwigs, leaves, bark, vines, and moss.Branches, twigs, mud, grass, moss, bark, and grass.
Height20 feet or more into the airIn marsh plants or high in trees, depending on the type of bird. 
Width6–8 inches on average, but up to two feet.1.5 inch–78.7 inches 
ShapeRoundFlat platform nests, pendant-, sphere- and cup-shaped nests

1. Squirrel Nest vs. Bird Cup Nest

Squirrel Nest vs. Bird Cup Nest

Squirrel nests have rounded roof structures whereas bird cup nests are round in shape but are not enclosed. Bird cup nests are considerably smaller than squirrels’ nests. 

Birds that build cup-shaped nests include American robins and Black-chinned hummingbirds. 

Squirrel Nests Are Bigger Than Bird Cup Nests 

Squirrel nests range in size depending on the space between the branches. They range from six inches up to two feet wide. 

American Robins build their bowl-shaped nests with twigs, mud, and dry grass. Their nests are an average of 6 inches across and 4 to 6 inches high.[2] 

Black-chinned hummingbirds build cup-shaped nests that are about 1.5 inches wide and 1 inch high.[3] 

2. Squirrel Nest vs. Platform Bird Nest

Squirrel Nest vs. Platform Bird Nest

Platform nests are built on the ground, on high ledges, and in trees. In urban areas, birds also build their nests on telephone poles and man-made platforms.[4]

Platform nests are also known as eyries, built by Ospreys and Great blue herons. Eyries can be used for years and increase in size over the years.[5] 

Bird’s Platform Nests Are Not Enclosed 

Platform nests are large, flat nests made of branches and twigs. They are lined with small twigs, moss, bark, and grass. They are not enclosed like squirrel nests. 

3. Squirrel Nest vs. Pendant Bird Nest

Squirrel Nest vs. Pendant Bird Nest

Birds like Bullock orioles and weaver birds build oval nests made from grass, plant fiber, horsehair, wool, and fine moss. These nests hang from branches. [6] 

Pendant Nests Are Suspended 

The biggest difference between pendant nests and squirrel nests is that squirrel nests are built on top of branches while pendant bird nests hang from branches. 

4. Squirrel Nest vs. Sphere Bird Nest

Squirrel Nest vs. Sphere Bird Nest

Sphere birds’ nests look more like squirrel round nests than other birds’ nests. They have the same general shape but differ in size and weave style.

Birds that build sphere-shaped nests include Marsh wrens and Black-billed magpies.

Size and Location 

The main difference is that these birds’ nests are smaller than squirrels’ nests. They are also often built in locations where squirrels don’t build nests. 

For example, Marsh wrens build their nests in marshland.  

Squirrel Nest vs. Bird Nest: Similarities 

Squirrel nests are spherical, similar to spherical bird nests built by birds like Marsh wrens and Black-billed magpies. Squirrels and birds both build their nests with available natural materials and like some birds, squirrels build an entrance and exit. 

Similarities between squirrel nests and some bird nests include the following:

  • Spherical shape 
  • Natural materials 
  • Weaving 
  • Built-in entrance and exit 

Spherical Shape 

Squirrels and birds like Marsh wrens and Black-billed magpies build round nests. 

They look different because of the materials used and the weaving process, but the shape of the structures are similar. 

Natural Materials

Squirrel Nest Natural Materials
Image Source

Both squirrels and birds build their nests with natural materials, like twigs and grass. This makes their nests look similar, especially when built in the same area utilizing the same sorts of natural materials. 


Both squirrels and birds use a weaving technique to make their nests secure and help insulate them. 

Entrance and Exits

Squirrel nests have an entrance and an escape hatch. Similarly, The round nets of Black-billed magpies have an entrance way and a separate exit. [7]

How to Tell the Difference Between Squirrel Nests & Bird Nests

The best way to tell the difference between squirrel and bird nests is to look at the shape, size, and style of the weave. Squirrel nests are round in shape. They are larger and have a messier-looking weave than the round nests built by birds. 

Here are three ways to tell the differences between a squirrel nest and a bird’s nest

  1. Shape 
  2. Size 
  3. Weave 

1. Shape 

Squirrel Nest Shape
Image Source

Platform and cup-shaped nests are easy to identify as bird nests. Squirrel nests are round and enclosed, while these bird nests are not.

2. Size 

Squirrel nests are larger than the round nests built by birds. 

Large birds, like Great blue herons, build platform nests that can be as large and larger than squirrels’ nests, but their nests are not round.  

3. Weave 

Birds weave with their beaks while squirrels use their paws. This difference affects the overall finish. Birds that build round achieve tighter and neater weave style while squirrels’ weave style looks more haphazard. 

Do Squirrels Rob Birds Nests? 

Squirrels are omnivores and are known to raid birds’ nests to eat eggs, nestlings, and small birds. 

A common and easily accessible source of protein for squirrels are birds, nestlings, and bird eggs.[8]

Squirrels are more likely to raid birds’ nests when other food sources are scarce. They also raid bird nests when female squirrels are pregnant or lactating and need more protein. [9]

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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