Difference Between Squirrel and Chipmunk


Main Difference

The main difference between squirrels and chipmunks is that the squirrels are medium or small-sized rodents and chipmunks are a type of squirrels.

Squirrel vs. Chipmunk

Squirrels and chipmunks both belong to the Sciuridae family and are small rodents that eat nuts, fruits, seeds, green vegetation, fungi, and insects. The squirrels are larger than the chipmunk, but its size varies from species to species. Gray squirrels are 18 to 20 inches with an average weight of 1.5 pounds. Generally, the squirrels are slender. Chipmunks are comparatively small ranging from 7.2 to 8.5 inches in length, whereas the range of body weight is 1.1 to 1.8 ounces. The eyes of squirrels are large, and tails are bushy. The eyes of chipmunks are similar to the squirrels. The tip of their tail is also bushy. There are 285 species of squirrels which are typical residents of South and North America, Africa, and Eurasia. Chipmunks are considered to have 25 species mostly found in North America. Their some species are native to the Asian regions of Siberia. The squirrels can accommodate all kinds of habitats except for those with extreme weather conditions like the deserts and the polar region. Chipmunks usually live near the outskirts of the woodlands and the backyards. The two most common and abundant categories of squirrels are tree squirrels and ground squirrels. Ground squirrels have stripes only on the back; Their fur is brown, gray or red. But on the tree squirrels, there are no stripes. The chipmunks are brownish, and their brown fur has yellow, black and brown stripes extending the entire body starting from the head to the tail and run all over the body.


Comparison Chart

A type of medium or small-sized rodents belonging to the Sciuridae familyAre a type of squirrels also belonging to the Sciuridae family
Slender bodies, bushy tails, and large eyesSmall rounded bodies
Variety of plants, nuts, seeds, conifer cones, fruits, fungi, green vegetationSeeds, nuts, and other fruits, and buds, small frogs, insects, worms
Average Lifespan
Six to eight yearsAbout three years

What is Squirrel?

Squirrels belong to a large family Sciuridae that includes small or medium-sized rodents like tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs, etc. There are three types of squirrels, ground, tree, and flying squirrels. Ground squirrels live in underground burrows, which are up to 30 feet long and have several tunnels. Tree squirrels live in nests of tree located high in trees. The Flying squirrels are nocturnal, and they live in nests or tree holes. The color and size of the squirrel vary according to their species. They can be brown, gray, or reddish-brown. The tree squirrel is larger and doesn’t have stripes, the ground squirrel has body stripes, but no head stripes. The tree squirrel is larger, has a longer tail and no stripes. All these squirrels have short fur and small rounded ears. The Ground squirrel ranges from 8 to 12 inches in length. Tree squirrels are 12 to 20 inches in length, including the tail. Tree squirrels feed on plant material, including seeds, nuts, acorns, tree buds, berries, leaves, and twigs. The squirrels are classified into five subfamilies that are further classified into 58 genera and 285 species. Some Major elements in the diet of squirrel are seeds, buds, acorns, bark, fungi, pine cones, leaves, and nuts. Some squirrels also like to have tiny insects and small vertebrates as their food. Sounds produced by the squirrels are more like duck quack and the whistling sounds. Squirrels give birth to 3 to 8 babies after a gestation of 35 to 41 days.


What is Chipmunk?

Chipmunks are small striped squirrels that are native to North America and Asia. They are mostly classed either as a single genus Tamias or as three. Chipmunks have shorter less bushy tails than squirrels. Chipmunks hold their tails more erect as compared to squirrels. Chipmunks have elastic skin in their cheeks that allows them to fill these pouches with food and carry them back to their burrows either to save or to eat in peace. Their burrows are usually 30 feet deep which they dig in the ground. Chipmunks are small in size ranging from 7.2 to 8.5 inches in length, whereas the range of body weight is 1.1 to 1.8 ounces. Chipmunks are referred to as ‘striped squirrels.’ Chipmunks have prominent black and white strips extending from the head to their tail. They also have white strips under their eyes. The chipmunks eat both small animals and plantation. So it is appropriate to define them as omnivores. The mating time of chipmunks is particularly at the start of the spring season and the final days of the summer. The pregnancy period of the female chipmunk is 31 days, and she gives birth to 2 to 6 young ones. Their average life in the natural habitat is three years, while those in custody can survive for nine years. Chipmunks have a single genus, Tamias, or three families sometimes namely: Tamias, (eastern chipmunk), Neotamias (23 western species), and Eutamias (Siberian chipmunk).

Key Differences

  1. Chipmunks are small mammals with distinct stripes, whereas the tree squirrel is larger and does not have stripes.
  2. Chipmunks range from 6 to 12 inches in length on the flip side squirrels range from 8 to 12 inches and 12 to 20 inches (38 – 52 cm) in length, including the tail.
  3. Squirrels eat acorns, nuts, seeds, buds, bark, pine cones, fungi, and leaves while Chipmunks are omnivores. They eat fruit, seed, grass shoots, insects, worms, small frogs, and eggs.
  4. Squirrels have slender bodies, bushy tails, and large eyes while Chipmunks have small and rounded bodies.
  5. Squirrels communicate by series of rapid clicking sounds and whistle-like calls on the other hand Chipmunks produce bird-like chirps, clucks and high-pitched sounds for communication.


Squirrels and chipmunks both are the tiny rodents that belong to the same rodent family. These are fascinating creatures with several distinguishing features.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson