Despite more than 200 species; yet, not many people know that these rodents are widely omnivorous. Saying that squirrels, regardless of their type, still prefer a herbivorous diet but will resort to eating meat and insects if their liked food is unavailable. However, there are some exceptions, like the southern flying squirrel with a relatively carnivorous diet. But what do squirrels like to eat if they were to choose?
Even though their omnivorous dietary habits make them survivalists, who can thrive almost anywhere, there is no denying that these mammals like some foods more than others.
This article discusses all of the squirrels’ favourite foods. Read on to find out.
The Short Answer…
Food which squirrels like to eat the most are nuts, seeds, fruits like avocado, vegetables, cereals, eggs and insects.
What Do Squirrels Like To Eat The Most?
Like us, squirrels also prefer specific types of foods. Squirrels can adapt their diet according to availability, often changing with the season – but, sometimes, also dictated by natural habitat destruction or nearness to urban homes.
However, when nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, and grasses are nowhere to find, squirrels would eat insects, baby birds, young chicks, carrion, small animals, and even snakes at times. Under similar conditions, squirrels tend to eat eggs, like robin eggs and blackbird eggs, or raid a chicken coop.
Moreover, small animals and insects out up a fight. Thus, hunting them exposes the squirrel to the mercy of various wild animals that feed on these rodents like raccoons that eat squirrels. Nevertheless, when staving, squirrels will tap into their carnivorous side.
Despite their opportunistic dining habits, squirrels are dominantly herbivores and enjoy vegetarian food much better than a carnivorous alternative. Here we look at the foods most loved by squirrels, which make the bigger of the squirrel diet.
This is no surprise. Squirrels love nuts and eat a wide variety of them. Squirrels eat nuts because of their nutritional value (they are an excellent source of protein and fatty acids) and easy availability in their natural habitat of woodlands and forests. Their hard outer shell keeps the squirrels’ front teeth in check, as they never stop growing. But with a variety of nuts, which nuts do squirrels love the most? Here’s which.
Squirrels love eating acorns, hickory nuts, pine nuts from pine cones, macadamia nuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and chestnuts. However, cashews and pine nuts in excessive quantities can cause calcium loss. Thus, a good mix of various food groups is essential for a balanced diet.
Squirrels not only eat nuts as they forage, but they also store them, particularly in the fall, to use up in wither when the food is scarce. Most squirrels use their cheek pouches to store more nuts than needed and then store them in holes for later retrieval. However, food scarcity also creates the problem of squirrels being eaten by other animals even by crows that compete for food with squirrels.
Fun fact: Squirrels dig many faux holes to throw off other animals that might raid their nut hoards.
One thing to remember is that peanuts are not nuts; they are legumes. Although the odd peanut will not harm squirrels, these legumes are notorious for harbouring bacteria and mould that can potentially be fatal for the critters. If you have to feed peanuts, the roasted variety is much safer than the raw ones.
Similarly, peanut butter should also be fed in moderation – as an occasional snack just like popcorn that squirrels eat.
Seeds and Grains
Squirrels also love munching on seeds and grains. When there is a plentiful supply of seeds during the fall months, squirrels regularly treat themselves to safflower seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Often, you will find squirrels rummaging through bird feeders and stealing birdseed intended for flyers.
Birdseed provides seeds and grains. When squirrels spot a bird feeder with a continuous supply of their favourite food, they often get in between the birds even as they are feeding.
With their invasive behaviour, Squirrels can be a nuisance and destroy bird feeders. A quick solution is to get a squirrel guard or install a unique squirrel feeder in your backyard. Squirrel feeders are readily available in pet shops and online.
Plant Parts: Bulbs, Roots, and Flowers
Apart from nuts and seeds, squirrels are also fond of eating various plant parts. They like nibbling on soft parts like young shoots as well as flowers, buds, delicate twigs, and flower bulbs. Squirrels feed on tree roots. This behaviour in ground squirrels irks farmers and home gardeners as they destroy seedlings and garden beds.
Seed-bearing plants are naturally a favourite for squirrels, thanks to their love for seeds, as we have discussed.
Baby squirrels have their mother’s feed until they can open their eyes, but ground baby squirrels eat small baby plants as their first food once they leave the burrows to forage independently.
Squirrels are notorious for gnawing, and tree bark is not exempt. With front teeth that never stop growing, it is pretty easy for these rodents to chew through the hard outer layer to access the sweet sap inside.
You will often find squirrels licking the bark, especially the sugar maple tree, to lick the sweet sap underneath. Once the bark is removed, the squirrels access the precious liquid and nutrients they need for quick energy.
The red squirrel is often given credit for the creation of maple syrup. The maple sap that turns into a syrup after evaporation is an energy-boosting snack for the red squirrel in the spring.
Fruits play an essential role in satiating squirrels’ natural appetite. These small mammals love to eat off various fruiting trees – their climbing abilities make it easy.
Adult and baby squirrels eat a wide variety of fruits and berries, including apples, grapes, oranges, apricots, plums, figs, strawberries, mulberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, avocados, bananas, pears, kiwis, watermelon, and squash.
You may think corn is a vegetable or a grain, but it is classified as a fruit, much like tomatoes. And, while squirrels love corn, it is not very beneficial in terms of nutritional value and should be provided in restricted quantities.
Since fruits have natural sugars, they are wonderful energy food sources that help squirrels keep moving to forage other foods they need for a balanced diet. Fresh fruits make up more of a squirrel’s diet in summer and spring.
Squirrels also eat tomatoes – sometimes digging in for just the seeds rather than the whole fruit.
Vegetables are another beloved squirrel food. Squirrels eat various greens and other vegetables and often prefer ones with a crunchy texture.
Not only do squirrels like vegetables, but they also provide tremendous nutritional value. Squirrels include broccoli, butternut squash, pumpkin, lettuce, kale, arugula, cabbage, asparagus, celery, cauliflower, peas, radishes, and various other root vegetables.
Fungi and Lichens
Squirrels regularly feed on fungi and lichens. They are a significant part of a flying squirrel’s diet, who loves acorn truffles (they look and smell similar to acorns). Even for other squirrel types like the tree squirrels, fungi provide essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals that may be missing from their diet otherwise.
Therefore, squirrels eating various types of mushrooms, including those poisonous to humans, is quite a common sight.
A word of caution: Squirrels are not picky eaters and will eat nearly anything with minimal nutritional value, including sugary cereals and junk food (they are pretty fond of cookies with cream). However, sugary snacks are not suitable for these rodents and should be avoided.
What Do Wild Squirrels Like To Eat?
Squirrels in the wild do not have bird feeders, junk food, or cat food. They have to rely on what is naturally available near their habitat. Therefore, wild squirrels eat seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, fungi, liches, flowers, leaves, flower bulbs, buds, tree sap, young branches, and grains as some of their favourite foods.
Since winters prove to be challenging for food foraging, squirrels rely on the hoards of nuts they store through the summer and fall. However, squirrels eat insects, carrion, small mice, and other forest-dwelling rodents if food is scarce. Not only food, but water is also scarce in winter, but where do squirrels get fresh water? Here’s where.
Nonetheless, wild squirrels travel far away for food and are very good at protecting it.
What Do Ground Squirrels Like To Eat?
Ground squirrels eat a mainly herbivorous diet. They like eating nuts, seeds, fungi, and fruits. However, they will also occasionally feed on insects, ground-nesting bird eggs, and other animals, including those bigger than them in size.
These squirrels love acorns and walnuts, and their trees in your yard will make them constant visitors. Despite their name, they can climb trees well enough to get to the fruit. However, they live in underground tunnels.
What Do Flying Squirrels Like To Eat?
Flying squirrels are nocturnal squirrels whose heightened sense of smell saves them from predating wild animals and helps them forage for their most liked food. These squirrels, like their cousins, love to devour nuts and seeds. Their favourites include hickory nuts, pine nuts, acorns, walnuts, sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Even though northern flying squirrels, like most other squirrels, enjoy more of a herbivorous diet, their southern counterparts are a bit different.
Despite liking the primarily herbivorous diet of the northern flying squirrels, the southern kind also wants to add substantial animal foods like bird eggs, carrion, invertebrates, shrews, and nestlings. You cannot exactly call these squirrels carnivores, but it shows more of such dietary behaviour than other squirrels.
What Do Squirrels Not Like To Eat?
Most squirrels like a herbivorous diet. Even though there is no denying that squirrels eat animal foods like insects, small animals, and eggs, it is done more so as a necessity than from liking.
However, squirrels despise a few foods, and they are not carnivorous foods. Squirrels hate chilis, raw onion, raw garlic, and pickled foods. Moreover, they also do not like Niger/ Nyjer seeds.
Do Squirrels Like Human Food?
Well, with no surprise, squirrels happen to like human food and leftover more than us. As squirrels are omnivores just like us, they like human food, most of the food that we eat and even treats like chocolate.
Feeding Squirrels In Captivity: What Favorite Foods Should You Feed Squirrels?
The rule of thumb is to present your pet squirrel with similar foods in captivity as it would find in the wild. In doing so, you ensure a balanced diet required for optimal growth. Therefore, feeding squirrels a good mix of nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables is preferred.
Since squirrels love varying foods, you can provide them with the occasional treat buy beware of constantly giving them things with poor nutritional value like chocolate.
While you feed squirrels, remember that they need clean water to drink regularly.
Finding food is a challenge for squirrels which they chase and even run in front of cars for it.
What Do Squirrels Eat From Bird Feeders?
Squirrels love seeds and grains – and they get plenty of those from the bird feeders. Who doesn’t love readily available food and squirrels are no different.
Squirrels usually nest near the yard once they locate a backyard bird feeder that regularly dishes out their favourite treats. This can drive away small birds from your feeders. Invest in a squirrel guard, or these pesky rodents can quickly become a problem. However, if you want to attract squirrels to your yard, be sure a feeder full of their favourite seeds will do the job.
What Do Fox Squirrels Love To Eat?
Like numerous other squirrel types, fox squirrels are primarily herbivores that feed on various nuts (the kind, however, depends heavily on their location). In winter, they access their caches of stored nuts and use them as the food source.
They like hickory nuts, acorns, mulberry, beech, and walnuts. These squirrels also enjoy Hawthorne seeds, oats, soybeans, and fruits.
Some other food sources include flowers and tree buds. However, fox squirrels will occasionally eat insects.
What Food Do Grey Squirrels Like?
Grey squirrels are naturally fond of a vegetarian diet. Grey squirrels eat various herbivorous food like flowers, tree buds, seeds, nuts, and fungi. They also lick the sweet sap after gnawing and peeling back the tree bark with their sharp teeth. Grey squirrels have an extraordinary memory and can easily retrieve food from their scatter-hoardings in winter similar to squirrels drinking water.
They are notorious for raiding gardens and bird feeders in search of food. Although, they feed on eggs, small birds, and animals from time to time.
What Fruits Do Squirrels Love?
You can feed squirrels various kinds of fruit, and they will happily munch on to them. Fruits are a high-energy food that provides squirrels the power to hop up and down a tree to forage for their favourite food and build a shelter.
Squirrels love numerous toes of fruits and berries; you should be careful not to overfeed fruits to them, as they are high in sugar. Some of the squirrels most-loved fruits and berries include:
Which Vegetables Do Squirrels Love?
Vegetables are an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet for squirrels. Squirrels love munching on crunchy vegetables like lettuce and broccoli. However, they will eat almost all kinds of vegetables except garlic, onion, and chilli, which they avoid.
Feed squirrels vegetables with high calcium content to avoid developing any deficiencies. Some excellent vegetables that squirrels love include:
- Chinese cabbage
- beet greens
- collard greens
- romaine lettuce
- mustard greens
- swiss chard
- Brussel sprouts
- green bens
- cherry tomatoes
- sweet potatoes
- sugar snap peas
- bell peppers
Try not to feed squirrels palm hearts, potatoes, fresh corn, dried vegetables, and yams. While squirrels will eat avocados, they have high-fat content and can cause the squirrel to become overweight. Moreover, avocado pit and skin are also potentially toxic for a squirrel so err on the side of caution.
Are All Seeds Good For Squirrels?
All kinds of trees, ground, and flying squirrels eat seeds. It is one of the favourite foods for these high-energy rodents, especially in the fall. Squirrels will eat almost every kind of seed, which explains their increasing presence around feeders in urban areas. However, they avoid Niger, millet, canola, and safflower seeds. Regardless, if they are hungry and short on choices, squirrels will likely eat these seeds as well.
Pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds are good for squirrels as well as well-liked. Although, you may be surprised to know that the squirrel-favourite sunflower seed so not add much nutritional value to their diet. While squirrels will happily devour this birdseed, it is prudent that they only are given to them in small quantities, along with another food group for a balanced diet. Too many sunflower seeds can be the reason for a severe calcium deficiency.
What Food To Avoid Feeding Squirrels?
Squirrels are very adaptive when it comes to their diet. Depending on their habitat and food availability, they adjust their dietary needs. Therefore, you see them rummaging through trash cans in urban areas. However, not all the food squirrels consume is good for them.
When feeding a squirrel, there are certain foods that you should avoid providing, especially since a squirrel will eat almost anything. The foods you should not feed a squirrel include only seed mixes as they have enough nutritional value to replace a varied diet required for squirrels.
Any foods with excessive starch or sugars are not a good pick; such foods include pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, cookies, soda, candies, dried fruit, fruit juices, sweetened yoghurt, and breakfast cereals. Similarly, you should not add artificial sweeteners to a squirrel’s diet.
You should also avoid feeding squirrels most legumes and junk food like chips, pretzels, crackers, French fries, or anything slated (including nuts).
The rule of thumb is to keep the squirrel’s diet as diverse and natural as it would be in the wild.
Even though squirrels are omnivores, most species only eat carrion, bird eggs, insects, small rodents, other small animals, and invertebrates when their preferred diet is unavailable. Luckily, there is a wide variety of food that squirrels enjoy eating, like different kinds of nuts, seeds, grains, fungi, lichens, fruits, and vegetables.
However, it is essential to practice moderation when you feed squirrels, even from their best-liked food. Since squirrels do not have a hard time picking what they will eat, it is easy to overfeed them one food group.
Ensure that you provide a balanced diet that includes several favourite food items without going overboard with sugar, which means controlled fruit portions and other treats.