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What Do Squirrels Eat?

Written by: Akeem Eletu
Last updated on:
image of squirrel

Squirrels have a varied diet. They can eat just about anything a human can eat. Squirrels prefer nuts as their most sought-after delicacy. But they also eat fruits, vegetables, and even flesh in rare instances when faced with severe starvation.

Long thought to be herbivores, Squirrels fall more in the category of omnivores.

They eat seeds, garden berries, vegetables, and even insects. They can also eat flesh if survival depends on it. They will eat anything in their immediate environment as they are very adaptive. 

But because squirrels are adaptable and can survive almost anything, you cannot feed them anything. Some foods are toxic or not liked by the squirrels.

Here is a guide of what squirrels prefer, eat, and should not be fed. The article also discusses other important points about squirrel food.

What Do Squirrels Eat?

Simply:  nuts. Squirrels prefer nuts to any other food. Nuts offer the fat and protein they need. 

Feed Squirrels Nuts

Squirrels love nuts the way fat kids love cake. Nuts are the staple food for squirrels. Feed your squirrels nuts. 

Squirrels eat nuts like almonds, chestnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, acorn, cashew nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts without the shells, hickory nuts, grape nuts, and pistachio nuts. 

Squirrels rely on these nuts, especially during the late fall and early winter, for their protein needs. Peanuts are not good nuts for squirrels. They are toxic for squirrels. Raw peanuts harbor toxic molds that can harm your pet squirrels.

Feeding Squirrels Insects

While insects should be a part of a squirrel’s staple diet, squirrels feed on a preferred selection of insects. These insects include grasshoppers, crickets, insect larvae, and even caterpillars. 

Remember that feeding wild insects is risky. Most of the insects from the wild come with parasites, which can pose health challenges for the squirrels. 

If you must feed insects, it would be safer to opt for store-bought ones to minimize the risks of a parasitic infection.

Feed Squirrels Select Fungi and Mushrooms

Squirrels eat fungi, mushrooms, and other select plant materials. They sometimes forage for these food choices. This food choice depends on squirrels’ climate. 

Some squirrel species eat fungi, mushrooms, and  acorn truffles. 

Squirrels often dig up this fungus and mistake it for acorns because of its similar odor. They mistake it for seeds they buried the previous season.

Other examples here include oyster mushrooms, truffles, and lichen.

Seeds You Put In Bird Feeders

Squirrels are notoriously mischievous.  They will take  seeds from a bird feeder. 

Squirrels eat seeds to maintain a balanced diet in their natural habitat. They  include sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, poppy seeds, and pumpkin seeds. 

Squirrels enjoy bird seeds and will eat them when that bird feeder is full.

Many of these seeds are harvested for their oil content, making them a great food choice for squirrels. Examples include the seeds, usually obtained from the safflower plant for their high oil content, and sunflower seeds.

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Feeding Squirrels Plant And Tree Materials

image of fresh leaves

Squirrels also eat plants and tree materials. Interestingly, fox squirrels, gray squirrels, and flying squirrels eat tree bark.

Although they are picky eaters, most squirrels eat parts of plants such as fresh leaves, petals, soft tips of plants, succulent flower buds, bulbs like tulip bulbs, and new sprouts from seedlings. 

What Do Baby Squirrels Eat?

Baby squirrels do not eat nuts and seeds at birth. Their natural appetite is for their mother’s milk and they rely on it for about 40 days and will not leave their nest during this infancy period. 

After this stage, they begin to eat fruit and other edible options around the nest. 

Do Squirrels Eat Fruits?

Squirrels eat fruit.  They will feast on a long list of fruits from fruit trees, apples, plums, kiwis, peaches, pears, avocados, figs, bananas, pumpkins, melon, and mangoes.

Squirrels eat fruit to help them increase their weight and prepare for winter. The high sugar levels help them store energy for the coming  colder months. Fruits constitute a staple food source for squirrels, so you should not be surprised to find fruits in your garden bearing bite marks.

Squirrels will also eat edible berries. They love them and will not miss a chance at mulberries, tomatoes, persimmons, cantaloupe, blackberries, elderberries, cloudberries, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, grapefruits, and raisins. 

But be careful with fruits. They work best as desserts. Feed your pet squirrels fruits only after having a good measure of grains, nuts, and vegetables.

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Do Squirrels Eat Meat?

image of meats

Severe starvation has been known to make squirrels carnivores.  They steal food that other squirrels buried. They also turn to other food sources. 

They may steal bird eggs from a bird’s nest and even from a chicken coop if they get the chance. When squirrels eat eggs, they prey on blackbird and robin eggs. They’ve also been known to eat hatchlings or young chicks that fall from their nest..

Squirrels have small incisors to tear food and vegetation, and they chew with their molar. Although they eat meat, it is as a last resort when other food sources are unavailable.

Can Squirrels Eat Junk Food? 

Junk here means human junk food. This is a legitimate concern because squirrels are inquisitive.  Squirrels eating junk is not ideal, especially if it is your pet squirrel. 

Deter squirrels from eating leftovers in the garbage. Corn flakes, popcorn, candy bars, processed corn-based products, and other processed foods like chocolate are not ideal for squirrels. 

Your pet squirrels need a balanced diet that has nutrients, including protein, fat, calcium, vitamins, and minerals. 

Junk foods are not  nutritional and contain chemical additives and preservatives that are harmful to your squirrels. Do not feed them junk food.

What Not To Feed Squirrels

Squirrels will naturally avoid onions, garlic, jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers, anaheim peppers, and chili peppers. Even if you put chili peppers in a bird feeder,  you can be sure they will run once they smell the seeds. 

So avoid anything they will naturally not eat and food choices that are either not nutritional or lead to health issues for them. 

You can use squirrel feeders for tree squirrels. Tree squirrels are part of the squirrel family and are arboreal. 

Scattered around the world’s different habitable continents, they are known for choosing trees as their place of habitat. This choice distinguishes them from the other types of squirrels that live among rocks and burrows. 

Attaching a squirrel feeder to the tree or putting one out in the backyard full of nuts and seeds will work. They will eat to their fill and frequent the squirrel feeder more often if you stock it with their favorite foods. 

But ensure that your squirrel feeder is positioned at about 60-72 inches up the tree near a high wall. This will be a sign of good faith as you would be allowing them to make a quick escape if they sense danger. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you choose black squirrels, red squirrels, gray squirrels, or striped squirrels, the eating habits of these small mammals are the same. The main differences between them are matters of identity and habitats. They eat nuts and vegetables, fruits, and meat, baby birds, and eggs if their survival depends on it. 

With this information, you are better informed to show your pet squirrel what it means when we say variety is the spice of life.

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