Richardson's Ground Squirrels

Communication of Richardson's Ground Squirrels
(also known as gophers)

Vocal communication in Richardson's ground squirrels consists of a basic 'vocabulary' of various squeals, chirps, chirrs, whistles, and teeth chatters. They also give two types of alarm calls used to alert family members and the community of approaching danger. One call is predominantly given for aerial predators, which tend to approach rapidly in a straight line. It consists of a short, low-pitched chirp that changes frequency. The other alarm call is primarily associated with terrestrial predators, which tend to approach relatively slowly. It consists of a long, high-pitched whistle with a constant frequency. When this call is heard, ground squirrels stand up and scan the area.

alert ground squirrel

Lactating adult female Richardson's ground squirrel alarm calling.


using olfactory communication

Richardson's ground squirrels using olfactory communication to identify family members by sniffing oral scent glands around the mouth.


Related Pages:
Species Description
Population Composition
Social Organization


  • Sloan, J. L. & J. F. Hare. 2004. Monotony and the information content of Richardson's ground squirrel (Spermophilus richardsonii) repeated calls: tonic communication or signal certainty? Ethology, 110: 147-156.
  • Wilson, D. R. & J. F. Hare. 2004. Ground squirrel uses ultrasonic alarms. Nature, 430: 523.
  • Hare, J. F. & B. A. Atkins. 2001. The squirrel that cried wolf: reliability detection by juvenile Richardson's ground squirrel (Spermophilus richardsonii). Behavioral Ecolgy and Sociobiology, 51: 108-112.
  • Sloan, J. L., D. R. Wilson, & J. F Hare. 2005. Functional morphology of Richardson's ground squirrel, Spermophilus richardsonii, alarm calls: the meaning of chirps, whistles and chucks. Animal Behaviour, 70: 937-944.
  • Koeppl, J. W., R. S. Hoffmann, and C. F. Nadler. 1978. Pattern analysis of acoustical behavior in four species of ground squirrel. Journal of Mammalogy, 59:677-696.
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