We all love to see a squirrel scampering across a yard or in the park nibbling on his autumn stash of nuts.
But I’m often asked about a range of squirrel-related questions. Along with their general diet, many budding Ranger planet detectives might be wondering do squirrels eat birds?
So let’s start with the definitive answer before we delve a little deeper.
Squirrels will eat small birds. As opportunistic omnivores, occasional meat content provides additional nutritional value that they will take advantage of. They do not actively pursue birds, but If they come upon a suitable nest, squirrels will feed on the eggs, chicks, and any bird carcasses.
All types of squirrel’s diets will depend largely on their environment. Here’s the full guide I added on what squirrels eat.
I reached out to a wildlife rescue organization to get their expert opinion on this question. The Linjoy Wildlife Sanctuary and Rescue regularly deal with squirrels and provide care for them. I asked them, do squirrels eat birds. In a nutshell, they said – “yes, all squirrels will readily take birds if they can get them”.
So with the quick answer and expert confirmation in mind, so that we can understand a little more easily whether squirrels eat birds, it’s important to find out the different types of squirrels. It could be that some types eat birds and others don’t!
So read on to find out more. Let’s start with one of the most common squirrels, grey squirrels, and see if they are likely to eat birds.
Do gray squirrels eat birds?
Gray squirrels are omnivores (which means they eat both plant and animal matter).
Usually, when you see a cute grey squirrel on your tv, he’s usually busy stashing or nibbling on nuts, fruits, and seeds.
However gray squirrels are opportunistic feeders and will essentially eat anything they can find! This also confirms what the wildlife experts stated about squirrels eating birds if they can get them.
This not only extends to the carcass of a dead bird, but also they are well known for ransacking birds’ nests and taking eggs.
Now we’ve found out that the grey squirrel will predate birds, and will also feed on a dead bird’s carcass. Let’s discover whether the less abundant red squirrel is likely to do the same.
“gray squirrels are opportunistic omnivores, and will essentially eat anything they can find!”
Do red squirrels eat birds?
Red squirrels along with their less colorful counterparts are also known to feed on birds.
Interestingly, although their diet is similar, they are known to be far more carnivores than their grey cousins.
Although they look adorable nibbling on a nut, they will not only eat young birds, but they will also take and eat bird eggs. Here’s some footage of just such an occasion…
During their busy day of foraging for food, they are well known as nest robbers similar to gray squirrels.
It’s also not unknown for all types of squirrels to eat rats and snakes when their usual diet of nuts, seeds, and fruit is scarce or as a need to supplement their diet.
Do ground squirrels eat birds?
Similar to both gray and red squirrels, ground squirrels are omnivores which means they enjoy a variety of plants, with a healthy side of meat where possible.
A ground squirrel’s diet will consist of nuts, buds, grains, and seeds, including wheat and corn wheat, and corn. But they may bolster this diet with meant to obtain additional minerals and vitamins.
They are not that fussy, so they may also eat frogs, insects, bird eggs, and fungi.
Do flying squirrels eat birds?
In the same way as their flightless relatives, flying squirrels will also eat a dead bird. The Southern flying squirrel is usually found living in deciduous and coniferous forests and woodland areas.
Like the other types of tree squirrels, their diet will usually consist of vegetation, fruits, nuts, and berries. They are opportunistic eaters which means that they will eat any type of edible nutrition source they can find.
Flying squirrels won’t eat large birds
In the same way as the rest of the squirrel family, flying squirrels will not attempt to eat larger birds that they deem too big in size to easily overcome.
However, flying squirrels will usually follow the same process as other squirrels as mostly they will steal and eat birds’ eggs – before resorting to eating a grown bird.
So now we’ve discovered that these cute little bundles of fur are not averse to adding some extra protein and nutrients in the form of birds to supplement their diet, let’s find out why they eat birds.
“In the same way as their flightless relatives, flying
squirrels will also eat a dead bird.”
Why do squirrels eat birds?
They eat foods outside of their typical diet when presented with an easy option. So recently fledged, or baby birds in a nest are an easy target for squirrels of all varieties.
Squirrels see these vulnerable birds as a quick source of calcium, protein, and many other vitamins and minerals.
They not only eat them but also potentially compete with woodland birds for nest sites, especially types of birds using large cavities or nest boxes.
What happens when squirrels eat birds?
According to recent research, in some woods, anecdotal information suggests that squirrels not only compete with birds for food, and are likely to eat them, but that they also prevent some types of owls such as tawny owls from breeding.
This competition for food and the possibility they will eat recently fledged or motherless birds can contribute to a decline in woodland bird numbers across the world.
But will a squirrel actively hunt out birds to eat? Let’s find out…
Do squirrels kill birds to eat?
As we saw in the short answer, a squirrel will most likely not deliberately hunt down birds to eat. In general, squirrels of all varieties will not set out to kill or attack birds.
However, if there is a shortage of food supply in their habitat they will not only eat baby birds but have also been known to feed on baby rabbits.
They will usually not attack a fully grown or larger bird.
So now we’ve understood that squirrels not only eat birds but in some cases are actively responsible for the decline of some woodland birds, you might be wondering if they eat birdseed?
Read on to find out if Birdseed is a tasty morsel for the carnivorous red, grey, flying, and ground squirrel!
Do squirrels eat birdseed?
We’ve all witnessed an opportunist gray squirrel taking his chances on a backyard bird feeder. So it’s fairly well known that these fluffy critters like a tasty snack on birdseed.
One of their favorite additions to their diet is nibbling on birdseed and suet balls. Both red and gray squirrels will eat birdseed. Another favorite food of a squirrel is sunflower seeds.
You will often find them hanging from a sunflower devouring the many seeds they contain. They will often eat sunflower seeds first on any bird feeder.
Although they don’t generally inhabit areas close to humans, ground squirrels, along with flying squirrels are less likely to eat birdseed to supplement their diet.
And to finish on…
So that’s the real answer as to – do squirrels eat birds? …confirmed by an expert!
Although they are less likely to attack a bird, we have seen that squirrels of many varieties will include birds in their diet.
If you want to know more about squirrels and animals in general, then here are a few related topics to check out…