The Ground Squirrel, also known as the Cape Ground Squirrel, uses its tail as a sunshade, holding it in a bent position over its back while feeding. When the squirrel moves its tail up and down, this is an alarm signal to other members of the pack, and is accompanied by a long, drawn out whine, which functions as an alarm call. Colonies numbering up to 30 live in a complicated network of interconnecting burrows: they are poor climbers, and so remain mostly either on or under the ground. The warren may be shared with suricates or yellow mongooses, although the mongooses sometimes kill older ground squirrels.
They live in the drier parts of southern Africa, and are predominantly vegetarians; their diet, however, does include insects. They sunbathe with their bellies to the ground and all four legs stretched out. They dustbathe in the same way and every now and then scratch the sand all over their bodies before shaking it off. Small colonies consist of females and their offspring, with the female defending the territory against intruders. Males are accepted into this society only when a female is in heat. One or two young are born.
The Tree Squirrel is named because of its association with woodland, and its use of trees as resting places. They vary in colour throughout their distributional range, and are diurnal. A conspicuous feature of their behaviour when under threat is 'mobbing': all the members of the colony make harsh clicking sounds while they flick their tails, building up momentum and gradually getting louder. In some areas they are solitary, or are found in small family groups: a lone tree squirrel relies on its wits when in danger and always keeps a branch or the trunk of a tree between it and the enemy. This species regularly forages on the ground, looking for roots, grasses, leafbuds, berries and insects such as ants.
The Tree Squirrel is always alert, and when alarmed, it will run away with great speed, making for the nearest tree where it will lie motionless, flattened against a branch. The young (usually 1 to 3) are born in a tree hollow lined with leaves and grass. The young remain until they are strong enough to brave the outside world, which is usually about three weeks.
Tree Squirrels are diligent in their grooming and a mother tree squirrel will hold her offspring down with her forelegs while grooming the little animal with licks, nibbles and the use of her claws. Food brought back to the nest is reserved for the parents only, and the young have to learn to find solid food for themselves from the time they are weaned.