This may sound like a silly question, but I have been wondering about this for a while. I live in a suburban neighborhood with a lot of trees. A lot of trees means birds and squirrels. You can hear them all day and cant leave the house without seeing them.

So why don't we see dead birds and squirrels more often? I only really see them after they have been hit by a car.

My first thought was that nature was just really efficient at cleaning them up. Flies, foxes, and maybe birds of prey get to them before I notice. But that would have to be awfully efficient. When I see a dead squirrel in the road it can take weeks for the sun and the flies to remove it entirely. A fox would have trouble getting in to my backyard (lots of trees but it is fenced in), and I rarely ever see a hawk or a falcon in my area.

My second thought was that there may not be as many birds and squirrels as I think. Yes, there are a lot of them, but maybe I am seeing them same ones over and over again? Squirrels don't really travel THAT far from their homes so maybe I just see the same 10 squirrels all of the time, which makes me overestimate their numbers.

There is a store near my house that always has hundreds of pigeons hanging out in the parking lot. They fly up to the power lines and occasionally fly down for what I assume is left over food or trash. I'm guessing they aren't there at night, but during the day you can always see them. Why wouldn't you see more dead pigeons in an area with so many pigeons? I know they have relatively long lifespans but still, some of them must die of unnatural causes.

Does anyone have any idea where they go?


2 Answers 2


A major cause of squirrel death is predation:

You won't see those bodies, for obvious reasons.

Disease, starvation, and harsh weather are other major causes of death. Squirrels dying in these ways are probably likely to die in their nests or otherwise hidden places. Again, no visible bodies.

So that leaves being hit by cars as the major cause of mortality where you'd have a chance of seeing bodies. You've already noted that you do in fact see these bodies, so there's no contradiction there. I'll add that depending on where you live, roadkill can be cleaned up by scavengers more or less quickly -- in areas where buzzards, coyotes, crows, etc are common, they can be cleaned up quickly, but in more urban and/or colder areas they may last longer.

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    $\begingroup$ I live in Georgia about 15 miles outside of Atlanta. While it is kind of close to the city, my neighborhood is surrounded by trees. Im not sure what would prey on squirrels in my area aside from foxes and birds. Thanks for the answer, but partial credit because I still dont know where the birds go! $\endgroup$
    – bsayegh
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @bsayegh: Well, humans (at least those raised in Appalachia and suchlike places) do prey on squirrels. Squirrel stew is quite tasty :-) Dogs and cats probably get a number, too. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @bsayegh - birds (hawks, owls, etc) are major, major predators of squirrels. Foxes are important but cats are probably much more so. Coyotes, opossums, weasels, snakes - all common around Atlanta. So there is no shortage of squirrel predators. As for birds -- this is why Stack Exchange recommends asking one question per post. But the general answer is the same, except that pigeons being about half the mass of squirrels scavengers are even more important. $\endgroup$
    – iayork
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 20:59

When a squirrel dies in a nest, the other squirrels who use the nest leave the remains there. The deceased body adds insulation and structure to the nest. I read where when a drey (squirrel nest) is removed it is not uncommon to find the skeletal remains of more than one squirrel. As for the birds, I had a bird hit my window (female cowbird) and she died instantly of a broken neck. I have a big back yard and I walked half way out into the yard and laid her to rest on the grass in the sun. Less than an hour later, she was gone. I do see hawks and other raptors over my yard and I'm sure that's what took her...either way someone enjoyed a good meal that day...

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Joanne. Interesting info about dead squirrels in dreys. However, we're looking for answers here that not only comment on info they've heard/read/learned about, but we actually want and require that you support your answer with something more tangible. Please find a journal article, online article, encyclopedia article, etc that supports the claims you make, and explicitly mention/link your source in your answer. In doing so, visitors will know that they can better trust the information you provide or look up your source to make the judgment about how factual claims are themselves.Thanks $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 14:13

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