What Can Squirrel Eat – What Do Squirrels Like to Eat the Most

What Can Squirrel Eat

Human foods do not provide the same benefits and some items like chocolate, salt, bread, and dairy products can actually be toxic.

Their bodies are adapted to derive balanced nutrition from their native environments. Supplementing with natural sources is usually safest for backyard squirrels.

Squirrels Diet

Squirrels Diet
What can squirrel eat

Squirrels are omnivores, meaning they can eat plants and meat. Their main food sources come from nuts, seeds, fruits, fungi, and sometimes insects.

Tree squirrels like eastern gray squirrels have a varied diet including oak acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts, tree sap, berries, some types of mushrooms, roots, tree bark and twigs. They will also occasionally eat bird eggs and nestlings.

Ground squirrels like prairie dogs consume nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, roots, and even small insects. Some species also feed on green vegetation.

Squirrels adapt to take advantage of seasonal foods. For example, they heavily consume tree sap in the early spring and fungi such as mushrooms in warmer months. They feast on nuts and seeds in the fall to fatten up for winter.

Squirrels store excess food to survive winter months when food is scarce. Tree squirrels bury nuts and seeds to create food caches, while some ground squirrels store food in their burrows.

Urban squirrels have expanded their diets to take advantage of human food sources such as bird feeders, discarded trash, and unsecured gardens and crops. This helps them thrive in city environments.

What Can Squirrel Eat

What Can Squirrels Eat
What Can Squirrel Eat

Squirrels are nimble, bushy-tailed rodents that scavenge a variety of food sources to fulfill their omnivorous diets. With over 200 classified species of squirrels scampering across forests worldwide, these clever critters consume an assortment of plants, fungi, insects and more to fuel their active lifestyles.

Tree squirrels like the eastern gray squirrel and fox squirrel predominantly feast upon tree-borne foods. A staple includes mast, or the fruit and seeds of forest trees.

These arboreal rodents particularly prize the protein and fat-rich nuts and seeds encased in the acorn mast of oak trees, hickory nut mast, walnut mast, and pine cone mast.

When abundant, mast offers sustenance for red squirrels, Douglas squirrels, southern flying squirrels and other tree squirrel species.

Squirrels also nibble on tree shoots, bark, sap, mushrooms and berries in season. To supplement their herbivorous taste, they occasionally prey upon insects, eggs and nestlings.

The eating habits of ground squirrels like chipmunks, prairie dogs and marmots revolve around low-growing flowering plants, seeds, tubers, grasses, mosses and twigs which comprise their usual diets. But as opportunistic feeders, they capitalize on seasonal fare such as berries, nuts, fruits and fungi as available. Different species also catch and consume insects as a food source when they can. Antelope squirrels for instance eat caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers and ants to meet their protein needs.

The varied menu of squirrels allows them to thrive across diverse ecosystems worldwide. Their sharp rodent incisors help them efficiently crack into seeds and nuts to extract their nutritious contents. Their adaptable palates keep these prolific rodents well-fed across forests, woodlands, prairies and backyards wherever populations of fox squirrels, pine squirrels, ground squirrels or other bushy-tailed critters abound. With nature’s bounty at their nimble claws, squirrels contentedly fill their bellies with each season’s offerings.

What Do Squirrels Like to Eat the Most

What Do Squirrels Like to Eat the Most
What Do Squirrels Like to Eat the Most

Squirrels most favor and prioritize nuts and seeds above all other foods when available. These foods provide them with essential fats and protein they need to maintain their active lifestyles.

Squirrels does eat some nuts and seeds that squirrels are especially fond of and seek out:

  • Acorns – All species of tree squirrels eagerly harvest acorns from oak trees as one of their favorite foods.
  • Hickory nuts – Hickory nuts have thick shells that squirrels excel at cracking open with their teeth to access the rich nutmeats inside.
  • Walnuts – Squirrels like English walnuts and black walnuts, often competing with humans for these.
  • Almonds – Natural stands of almond trees provide abundant crops of nuts for squirrels.
  • Pine cones – Squirrels extract and eat the nutritious pine nuts/seeds found within pine cones.
  • Sunflower seeds – A favorite of all backyard squirrels who routinely visit bird feeders stocked with sunflower seeds.

So while squirrels will opportunistically eat a wide variety of foods, nuts and seeds offer the best nutritional payoff for squirrels to prioritize in their territorial food quests. This ensures healthy growth and reproduction.

What Nuts Do Squirrels Eat?

What Nuts Do Squirrels Eat
What Nuts Do Squirrels Eat

In the fall and winter, nuts become a prime food source squirrels rely on to fatten up for the cold months ahead when food is scarce. This drives them to harvest and cache as many nuts as possible.

Squirrels eat a variety of nuts, some of their favorite include:

  1. Acorns – One of the most popular nuts eaten by tree squirrels. All oak trees produce acorns, which are high in fats and carbohydrates.
  2. Hickory Nuts – Shagbark hickory and shellbark hickory trees produce tasty hickory nuts with a high oil content favored by squirrels.
  3. Walnuts – Black walnuts and English/Persian walnuts are prized by squirrels for their rich nutty flavor. The hard shell protects the nutmeat inside.
  4. Almonds – When available, tree squirrels will harvest wild almonds as an excellent source of proteins and fats.
  5. Hazelnuts – The wild, bushy hazelnut shrub produces tasty nuts relished by squirrels in the fall.
  6. Beechnuts – Beech trees bear small, triangular nuts squirrels gnaw open to eat the sweet kernel inside.
  7. Pine Nuts – Squirrels gnaw open pine cones to extract the pine nuts hidden within.

What Fruit Do Squirrels Eat?

What Fruit Do Squirrels Eat?
What Fruit Do Squirrels Eat?

Squirrels are opportunistic eaters when it comes to fruit. Some of the main fruits that squirrels commonly eat include:

Squirrels enjoy blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and other types of wild berries that grow in their native habitats. The sweet taste and soft texture appeal to them.

Urban squirrels will eat fallen citrus fruits from ornamental trees, like oranges. The sweet citrus fluids and soft interior pulp make a tasty snack.

Squirrels will eat apples from trees in rural and urban areas. They seem to favor sweeter varieties over more tart apples.

Both wild cherry as well as cultivated cherry varieties get harvested by hungry squirrels when in season.

The soft, juicy berries of mulberry trees are a desirable summer treat enjoyed by squirrels.

Squirrels gnaw into large squash varieties like pumpkins left uneaten in the fall to get at the sweet inner flesh and seeds.

In Mediterranean climates with fig trees, squirrels indulge in the soft, ripe fruits.

Most fruits rich in sugars and carbs appeal to squirrels’ food preferences. Their sharp teeth make getting past fruit skins to the fleshy goodness inside an easy task as well.

What Food Do Squirrels Eat?

What Food Do Squirrels Eat
What Food Do Squirrels Eat

Squirrels are omnivorous rodents that predominantly eat plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, fruits, fungi, and tree flowers and buds.

Their preferred natural food sources include acorns, beechnuts, berries, corn, maple buds, and other fruits and nuts harvested from trees such as butternut, cedar, dogwood, elm, hackberry, hemlock, hickory, mulberry, pine, and spruce.

They supplement their herbivorous diet with mushrooms and sometimes insects, amphibians, bird eggs, and other small protein sources.

In urban and suburban areas near human habitats, squirrels also opportunistically feed on easily accessible foods like peanuts, peanut butter, and other unsecured human snack items.

Though squirrels will eat meat and protein when available, the bulk of their nutrition comes from carbohydrate-rich and high fat plant foods that fuel their metabolic needs and foraging lifestyle.

Squirrels strategically hoard and cache certain high value nuts and acorns to ensure reliable winter food reserves.

By adapting their food preferences across seasons, squirrels meet their dietary requirements in a variety of forest and neighborhood environments.

What Do Squirrels Eat In the Winter?

What Do Squirrels Eat In the Winter
What Do Squirrels Eat In the Winter

In winter, squirrels conserve energy and focus their limited foraging to reliably locate their hidden food reserves, tree branches, and human-provisioned food sources to make it through until spring.

Squirrels rely on stored food to survive the cold winter months when fresh food is scarce.

Squirrels collect and hide nuts and seeds like acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts, and pine cones in caches scattered across their territory before winter. These stashes supplement their winter diets.

Squirrels dig through snow to find mushrooms and fungi to eat. These provide nutrients when other foods are hard to come by.

Gnawing off and eating the nutrient-rich inner bark of trees becomes important during winter months.

Squirrel chew on the protein and starch rich buds of trees and shrubs when available.

Some squirrels rely on pine needles from evergreen trees to provide nutrients.

Urban squirrels scavenge leftovers like bones with scraps of meat or eggshells from trash cans and compost piles.

Backyard bird feeders and any leftover seed heads in gardens offer convenient winter food sources.

What Do Red Squirrel Eat?

What Do Red Squirrel Eat
What Do Red Squirrel Eat

Red squirrels have a varied omnivorous diet consisting primarily of seeds, nuts, fruit, fungi, and insects.

Red squirrels rely heavily on extracting and eating seeds from pine cones and spruce/fir cones. These tree seeds are a major staple.

Nuts, hazelnuts, beech nuts, hickory nuts, and acorns are among the nuts red squirrels hunt for and bury. Nuts provide lots of protein.

Red squirrels eat fruits and berries such as apples, pears, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and currants when available.

Truffles, morels, and other mushrooms supplement the diet of red squirrels when in season above ground.

Caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers and other insects get eaten by red squirrels as a protein source.

Red squirrels occasionally raid bird nests built in conifers to eat songbird eggs and nestlings as a food source.

In winter when food is scarce, red squirrels gnaw on the nutritious inner bark of trees for sustenance.

The small red squirrel mostly subsists on a mix of conifer seeds, nuts, fungi, fruits and sometimes insects across each season to provide the calories and nutrition they require to remain active. Their diet shifts with seasonal availability.

What Vegetables Do Squirrels Eat?

What Vegetables Do Squirrels Eat
What Vegetables Do Squirrels Eat

Squirrels are predominantly herbivorous and fulfill most of their nutritional needs from various plant foods.

Vegetables do not attract squirrels or contribute a meaningful amount of nutrients to their usual herbivorous regimes.

Instead squirrels focus more on tree-based foods like nuts, seeds, cones and fruits which are naturally abundant sources that provide the proteins, fats, carbs and calories they need in their habitats.

Supplemental foods like fungi, buds, some fruit and the occasional insect round out squirrel diets. But vegetable harvesting is rarely observed among foraging squirrels.

Squirrels will nibble on sweet corn kernels if they come across fields or gardens growing corn. However corn does not offer much nutritional value.

In the fall, squirrels sometimes gnaw open and eat seeds and flesh from pumpkins, acorn squash and other seasonal squash left uneaten outdoors.

Squirrels may dig up and eat small amounts of root veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes and turnips buried in garden beds as a minor food source.

While not technically vegetables, squirrels do enjoy eating tree fruits like apples and pears as well as mushrooms when available.

What Do Baby Squirrels Eat?

Baby squirrels rely on their mothers for food as they grow and mature outside the nest.

Mother squirrels nurse their young just like other mammals. Baby squirrels will drink their mother’s rich milk from around 5-6 weeks up until 2-3 months of age.

Around 7-8 weeks old, baby squirrels start sampling solid foods their mothers provide, like nuts, seeds, soft fruits and other foraged foods that adult squirrels eat. This weaning process supplements nursing.

If separated from their mothers, rehabilitators give orphaned baby squirrels specialized replacement formulas and feed them with a syringe or bottle to provide nutrients.

Once baby squirrels reach 10-12 weeks old and have grown teeth for gnawing, rehabilitators transition them to soaked shelter nuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds and other small foods they will forage as adults.

The key defining feature of baby squirrel diets is that they rely entirely on their mothers or human caregivers to supply their nutritional needs in their first few months of rapid growth and development post-weaning. Instincts for foraging and hoarding take more time to mature.

What Do Squirrels Eat and Drink?

What Do Squirrels Eat and Drink
What Do Squirrels Eat and Drink

Squirrels eat a varied omnivorous diet and drink water as their primary liquid source.

Foods squirrels eat:

  • Nuts and seeds like acorns, almonds, hickory nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds
  • Tree buds, shoots, bark, sap, and twigs
  • Fruits including apples, oranges, pears, cherries, blackberries
  • Fungi such as mushrooms, truffles and lichens
  • Green vegetation like leaves and grains
  • Insects including beetles, caterpillars, aphids
  • Bird eggs and nestlings

Liquids squirrels drink:

  • Water – squirrels’ main source of hydration comes from surface water like puddles, bird baths, gutters and other standing water collecting in outdoor spaces.

Additionally urban squirrels can utilize alternative water sources:

  • Tree sap – provides supplementary hydration from maple, birch and walnut tree sap flows
  • Fruit juices – squirrels obtain moisture from eating succulent fruits and berries
  • Nectar – flower nectars and tree pollen provide trace carbs and water

In winter, eating snow helps squirrels maintain their hydration levels when liquid water is hard to find. Overall though the majority of a squirrel’s daily fluid intake across all seasons originates from readily available surface fresh water sources that they frequently visit to drink from.

What Can Squirrels Not Eat?

While squirrels will eat a wide variety of foods, awareness of things that may harm squirrels from toxicity, allergens or choking dangers is advised for their health and safety. Monitoring food sources left outdoors can help prevent unintentional squirrel issues.

There are some foods that are dangerous or unhealthy for squirrels to consume.

Chocolate contains toxic theobromine and caffeine that can cause vomiting, seizures, heart attacks and even death in squirrels.

Uncooked meat carries harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli that a squirrel’s stomach cannot handle, causing serious food poisoning.

The essential oils in citrus fruit skins and rinds can irritate a squirrel’s digestive system.

Avoid feeding squirrels seasoned foods, especially those with chili powder or garlic powder – these can upset their stomachs.

Squirrels are lactose intolerant so dairy foods like cheese, yogurt and milk can induce digestive issues.

Nuts, grains and seeds that are very dry or moldy have the potential to cause choking hazards for greedy squirrel appetites.

Never give squirrels alcohol like beer or liquor which stresses liver function and could lead to alcohol poisoning.

Squirrel Diet Chart

Squirrel Diet Chart
Squirrel Diet Chart

This squirrel diet chart provides a helpful at-a-glance reference summarizing key food groups and examples of what gray squirrels, red squirrels, flying squirrels and other common species consume.

As opportunistic foragers, squirrels adapt to take advantage of seasonal fare. Soft tree fruits, berries, seeds, fungi and insects fluctuations greatly impact summer and fall feeding patterns before the winter shift to cached nuts and plant tissues.

An interesting note is that gray, fox and red squirrels rely more on tree-sourced foods like mast crops of acorns and other nuts, buds, fungus-infected wood, and inner bark cambium tissue which sustains them in lean wintertime when digging through snow for food is difficult.

In contrast, ground squirrels like prairie dogs and chipmunks eat more dried seeds, grains and roots cached in complex underground burrow systems and are more herbaceous plant-focused year-round. But masting events still influence their food supply as nuts get buried for reserves.

This chart covers the major food groups and dietary components universal across most squirrel species to meet their species-specific nutritional requirements. Their survival hinges on transitioning food sources across seasons as resource availability fluctuates. This flexibility and opportunistic appetite is key to squirrel success in woodlands worldwide!

What is a squirrels favorite food?

Acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts and other similar tree nuts are generally a squirrel’s favorite natural foods. All species of tree squirrels eagerly harvest and store these protein & fat rich nuts. Sunflower seeds are also squirrel favorites at backyard bird feeders.

What is the best thing to feed wild squirrels?

Unsalted nuts still in the shell like peanuts, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts make healthy, nutritious additions to supplement natural foraging for wild squirrels. Scattering some corn, wild birdseed mixes or quality sunflower seeds also gives them variety.

What foods are bad for squirrels?

Chocolate, raw meats, seasoned snacks, and excess bread/grains lacking proper nutrition should be avoided. Moldy or dried up foods pose choking hazards. Citrus peels, dairy and spicy seasonings may cause intestinal issues.

Are any foods poisonous to squirrels?

Chocolate contains toxic compounds like theobromine that are poisonous to squirrels. Foods rotted with mold can contain mycotoxins also extremely dangerous for squirrels. Onions and products with onion/garlic powders can cause anemia at high doses.

About Irfan Iqbal DVM

Hi, Dr irfan here, i have done Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from UVAS, Lahore which is one of the university of pakistan.

i have extensive experience in
1-Disease diagnosis
3-neutring, spaying,
5-urinary catheter passing, ear cropping, tail docking and other surgeries.
6- restraining, handling of pets especially dogs and cats
7- expert in management of feed and nutritional requirements
8- Dog training and basic obedience to owner.
9- teaching commands like sit, come, stop, as well as litre training and name recognizing

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