Have you noticed that squirrels seem to be always chewing something? This is because squirrels are real foodies that love to continuously eat something. But, exactly, what do squirrels eat?
Squirrels are omnivorous and eat a variety of foods including nuts, seeds, flowers, buds, fruits, vegetables, plant parts, fungi, truffles, insects, and bird’s eggs. Their diet depends on the species, season, and habitat but generally, they eat anything from acorns to other small mammals.
Here’s a squirrel’s diet chart:
However, there are some foods that are better to avoid or limit for squirrels. Let’s dive deeper into what squirrels eat!
Table Of Contents
Squirrels eat those food groups
What do wild squirrels eat? In the wild squirrels eat:
- Flowers and buds
- Tree and plant parts
- Bird’s eggs
In addition, urban squirrels can also eat almost anything they find laying around, including:
- Pet food
- Bird seeds
- Human trash
Like foxes, squirrels like to go around foraging for anything edible. Squirrels are not very picky when it comes to food, and in an urban setting they may end up eating also things that are not good for their health, like chocolate and candies.
What do squirrels eat?
In addition to eating nuts, seeds, berries, and fruits from trees, squirrels also eat flowers, mushrooms, truffles, insects, insect larvae, eggs, and plant materials. Finally, in some cases, especially if they can’t find any other food or if there is an easy opportunity, squirrels can eat meat as well.
For example, in winter tree squirrels such as eastern gray squirrels consume more plant material than insects because snow covers much of the ground making it harder to find food on the forest floor or under leaf litter (material covering the soil).
Ground squirrels are omnivores as well but have more insect matter in their diet than tree squirrels
Their diet is varied when it comes to grasses and roots as well – squirrels consume many different types of plants in order to get their nutrients.
Now let’s look more in detail at what squirrels eat from each food group!
- Pine nuts
- Hickory nuts
Of course, squirrels love almonds and cashews, however, a large quantity of them is not good for their health. In fact, oxalates are binding to calcium and a lack of this mineral is one of the common sicknesses of squirrels.
Squirrels also like peanuts (which are classified as legumes). However, if you decide to feed the squirrels with those, use only roasted peanuts. Because raw peanuts may develop an invisible mold that is dangerous for squirrels.
Regarding acorn, squirrels of course love it and they also eat a lot of it in the wild when available, including green acorn.
Unfortunately, there is some misleading information on a number of websites that claim that acorns could be poisonous to squirrels. This is of course nonsense because both research and observation show that squirrels regularly eat and cache acorns in the wild.
Moreover, squirrels are highly intelligent animals and they will eat straight away acorns that are closer to perishing while they tend to cache and hide acorns that are less likely to go bad.
An interesting theory about why some online sources are wrongly claiming that acorns could be poisonous to squirrels is that they seem to become more nervous when feeding on green acorns.
This may be due to acorns being loaded with tannin, which acts like a sort of exciting drug on squirrels. As a result, squirrels feeding on green acorns will feel a lot more energy, which on one side helps them to find and cache more food for winter, and on the other side makes them more nervous.
The squirrel’s hyperactivity, as boosted by tannin, may also be reducing their sleep and this may explain why they get more nervous and aggressive when feeding on acorns. This also matches the observations of people keeping pet squirrels.
Unfortunately, there’s no research available to confirm this theory yet, but it seems to be a plausible explanation for the squirrel’s behavior when eating green acorns.
In conclusion, it is ok to feed squirrels with acorns, but if you have a pet squirrel, it may be better to avoid it to keep it calmer.
Finally, scientists discovered that squirrels can feel which parts of acorns contain more tannin, and that’s why they tend to throw on the ground half-eaten acorns from some oak species. They are simply discarding the part which contains more tannin while eating the rest. The beauty of this is that the half-eaten acorns can still germinate, making this a perfect symbiosis between squirrels and oaks.
Squirrels like to eat all sorts of seeds, including:
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Poppy seeds
- Safflower seeds
Squirrels will eat seeds from bird feeders too as they are an easy supply of food for them.
Squirrels also like to eat cereals, however, cereals are not so good for them because of their high levels of carbs. As a result, may crave more cereals and avoid other more nutritious food instead. For this reason, cereals should be AVOIDED or LIMITED in quantity when feeding squirrels.
The squirrel’s diet is very diverse also when it comes to vegetables and salads. In fact, squirrels like to eat a great variety of vegetables, including:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage (red and green)
There are however some vegetables that the squirrels need to eat only in moderate quantity, even if they may like them. Those include nightshades and vegetables rich in oxalates.
So, when feeding squirrels, AVOID or LIMIT the quantity of:
- Nightshades vegetables – Those should be avoided or limited because they contain alkaloids (like solanine), which have inflammatory properties that may be an issue for an eventually sick or weak squirrel. These include vegetables like:
- White potatoes
- Bell peppers (red, green, and yellow)
- Oxalates-rich vegetables – Those should be limited because oxalates bind to calcium when they leave the body and squirrels need to maintain good levels of this mineral to avoid metabolic bone disease (MBD). This squirrel’s disease is caused by a lack of calcium and leads to deadly problems with their bones. These include vegetables like:
Do squirrels eat fruit? Squirrels love to eat fruits as the high levels of sugar they contain give them the energy they need to go foraging. Fruits also help the squirrels to gain weight for winter.
However, exactly because of the high levels of sugar in fruits, you should LIMIT the quantity of these treats if you feed them. This is because an excess of sugar in the squirrel’s diet can lead to health problems, such as preventing the squirrel from absorbing calcium.
Squirrels need to keep a balanced diet with all the nutrients and minerals they need to avoid sickness and metabolic bone disease (MBD).
Squirrels can eat from many fruit trees, including:
In addition to tree fruits, squirrels will also eat any available berries, including:
- Raspberries (LIMIT because high in oxalates)
Squirrels will also eat pretty much any other fruits they can put their teeth on, including:
Flowers and buds
Those include a large variety of flowers, including poppy from people’s gardens!
Tree and plant parts
Squirrels eat plant and tree materials, including:
- Plant stalks
- Tree bark to eat the underlying phloem
Squirrels eat those plant parts especially when they don’t have other more nutritious food available.
Regarding tree bark, there are numerous theories about why squirrels do it, including that they are looking to ingest more calcium. Other theories say that they chew the bark to then use it for their nests, but the true reasons are still not well understood.
Squirrels eat fungi too! This includes:
- Oyster mushrooms
Squirrels will occasionally eat these and other mushrooms as part of their diet.
It may be especially surprising to learn that squirrels can eat poisonous mushrooms that are deadly to humans such as Amanita mushrooms.
This recent discovery was documented by scientists in Japan and will for sure be subject to additional research to understand how squirrels can survive after eating this kind of highly poisonous mushrooms.
Squirrels also eat insects like:
Insects are only an occasional part of a squirrel’s diet and they tend to eat them only if they are easy to catch or if they are hungry.
When other food is scarce, squirrels will prey for eggs on a bird’s nest, including:
They would also steel checken eggs if they are hungry and have the right opporyunity.
Foods to AVOID for squirrels because unhealthy
Squirrels are creatures of habit and will eat the same foods every day. This is good for you, because it makes it easier to feed them!
It is important to know what foods should be avoided when feeding squirrels. Please avoid the following:
- Processed food
- Raw peanuts
- Cereals, including rice, and corn
- Junk food from fast foods
In addition to those, I already wrote about LIMITING Nightshades vegetables and oxalates-rich fruits and vegs. Please refer to the above sections regarding those and why they are not good for squirrels.
Food that squirrels don’t like to eat
As you probably undestood at this point, squirrels are not picky at all when it comes to their eating habits. However, there are some foods that squirrels don’t like to eat, including:
- Chily peppers
- Serrano peppers
- Coffee grounds
Those foods can also act as squirrel repellent because they really can’t stand their smell. So if you need to keep an area of your garden safe from squirrels, you may mix some cofee grounds with the soil or plant some garlic nearby. The squirrels will likely keep their distance!
Food that squirrels eat in urban areas
Being very opportunistic animals, squirrels will eat anything edible that’s left unattended in urban areas and parks, including:
- Dog food
- Cat food
- Organic trash
Squirrels love to eat cheese as it’s a good source of fat and protein. However, this is not natural food for them so it’s better to avoid or limit it when feeding them.
Squirrels love to scavenge for snacks in the garbage cans at parks and campsites and will even dig through your trash if you leave it outside overnight.
You are advised to lock your trash if it contains anything organic.
In addition to eating whatever they find unattended, squirrels have also been known to also enter homes in search for food.
Frequently asked questions
What do Grey squirrels eat?
Squirrels are omnivorous, which means they eat a wide variety of foods. They have a diet primarily consisting of flowers, nuts, acorns, seeds, fruits, fungi, green leaves, and sometimes insects and bird’s eggs.
What do Red squirrels eat?
Red squirrels are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They eat a wide variety of foods including nuts, seeds, fruits, fungi, green vegetation, sometimes insects and eggs. However, a large portion of their diet is usually made of pine nuts, which they can find in abundance in their habitat.
What do ground squirrels eat?
Ground squirrels feed on nuts, green vegetation, seeds (especially sunflower seeds), fruits (especially berries), insects (especially ants), worms, snails, and birds during summer. They also feed on grasses and roots in the spring before leaves appear on trees.
During autumn they store food by burying it in the ground for consumption later during the winter which is known as scatter-hoarding or caching.
What do Flying squirrels eat?
Flying squirrels eat nuts, fruits, and leaves, along with tree sap. The sap is obtained by chewing holes into the tree trunks. The flying squirrel drinks the sap after collecting it in their mouths. In addition to this, they also consume insects such as moths and beetles. Finally, when hungry, they may raid bird’s nests looking for eggs and nestlings.
What do Baby squirrels eat?
Baby squirrels can eat a variety of different foods depending on their age, but they will mostly rely on the mother’s milk for nutrients until they’re weaned at about eight weeks.
The primary foods that squirrels eat are seeds and nuts, especially pine nuts, cones, and acorns, depending on their habitat. When nuts are not available due to the season, squirrels will switch to eating primarily flowers, buds, sprouts, leaves, fungi, and fruit. Only occasionally squirrels will eat insects, eggs, or even mice.
Squirrels need to keep a very balanced diet, so it’s important to periodically change the type of food you are using to feed them!
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