Many of us happen across squirrels eating something all the time, that’s because they’re real foodies, and like to eat a lot. They also eat a lot of things – but not all things are good for them.
Here we’re going to list all the foodstuffs that squirrels include in their diet and the things people feed them that they probably shouldn’t.
What Do Squirrels Eat? Squirrels are omnivores and so eat plants and animals. Other than the food they find in their habitats like vegetables, fruits, nuts, plant materials, bird’s eggs, insects and fungi, squirrels have also adapted to eat food they find in human habitats like birdseed, cereals, pet food, cheese, and trash.
Squirrels are not necessarily choosy eaters though. If you’ve ever spent time observing the eating patterns of squirrels, you might find quite a variety of food in their diet.
Squirrels are part of the Sciuridae family of mammals, closely related to chipmunks, prairie dogs, and woodchucks.
Squirrels are found in plentiful supply in North America, but also throughout the world, and there are a number of species, here are the seven main species whose foods we’ll be focussing on…
- Red squirrels
- Gray squirrels
- Fox squirrels
- Ground squirrels
- Black squirrels
- Flying squirrels
- Striped squirrels
These tiny creatures are familiar throughout much of North America and the world.
Squirrels are omnivores
Squirrels are predominantly herbivores. But you can class them as omnivores because of the wide variety of food types they’re known to feast on.
Much like foxes, squirrels tend to forage and scratch around for anything they feel is edible.
From the time they become young adults, they embark on a journey of learning what to eat – guided largely by their parents and by exploring different food groups themselves.
If you’re looking for the ideal food that will nourish your local squirrels and cover all the food nutrition they need – and have them coming back for more, then this squirrel food we used from amazon is perfect!
Squirrel’s main food groups
Squirrels have a natural appetite for the following food groups, not all of them are their favorites, and not all of them are necessarily good for them – which we’ll explore later…
- Tree parts
- Plant parts
- Human trash
Being omnivores makes it easier for them, as they have no clear boundaries on their dining habits.
Squirrel food as a baby Squirrel
As infants, squirrels rely only on their mother’s milk. They continue to feed on their mother’s milk for about 40 days – since they do not leave the nest during that period.
But once they reach maturity and are able to eat solid foods. Then their curiosity will have them exploring all kinds of foods and food groups
Squirrels are pretty open-minded when it comes to food. This may, unfortunately, make them fond of food that they should not be eating, like your favorite candy bars!
So now, we’ve touched on the food groups, so we’re going to dive into each of these areas and give you a complete guide on what squirrels eat – within each food group.
Thankfully, most squirrels seek to maintain a balanced diet naturally. Even though they can fall foul of too much of the wrong foods on occasion – as we’ll explore later.
Squirrels eat fruit and berries
Fruits are one of the squirrel’s favorite food, but like most food groups, it’s better for them to maintain a balanced diet, too much fruit can prevent them from absorbing calcium – so keep fruit-based treats to a minimum.
There are lots of different types of fruit that are readily available in abundance during summer and fall so they will consume more of it during this time.
The high levels of natural sugar in fruits help them to increase their weight ready for the winter, as well as an added energy boost for foraging.
Squirrels have well-adapted claws that make it easy for them to climb trees, their perfect balance helps them to climb along long thin fruit branches to get nuts and berries.
They eat from a variety of fruiting trees that includes (but are not limited to)…
Other fruits and berries
When it comes to their range of berries, they’re much like us. Because of thorny branches and thin vines, these can sometimes be harder to get to, but they’ll always figure ways of getting to them.
Squirrels will happily eat just about any edible grape and berry available, here’s the main selection…
- Eggplants (aubergines)
Of course, there is some ambiguity as to what is classed as a berry or a fruit, but we’ve added these together for convenience – to keep the list fairly simple.
Squirrels eat salad and vegetables
Squirrels also add vegetables to their diet. In fact, they eat a variety of vegetables the same as they do with fruits.
Farmers and gardeners are unfortunately very familiar with the vegetables that squirrels eat. But the amount of food taken by squirrels is thankfully quite minimal.
Here’s the main selection of vegetables that squirrels eat…
- Arugula (rocket)
- Yellow Squash
- Brussels sprouts
Pretty much any tasty vegetables they can get to and take, or dig up. As gardeners know, they’re also pretty clever at getting around many gardeners defenses to get to the good food!
Squirrels eat cereal and grain
Squirrel enthusiasts feed squirrels with cereals. Squirrels tend to love the grains and the nuts within the cereals.
Corn flakes, wheat-based cereal, chex, grape nuts and many more are all an acceptable part of their cereal diet – but with some caution – read on…
The benefit of these cereals is that they’re loaded with sugar that gives them extra energy.
The energy gained by sugar can then be used by these tiny furry animals to keep foraging for more food throughout the day, they’ll look to store any that they don’t consume immediately.
Generally speaking, they’re not the first choice for squirrels, but when offered, or when it’s the only food available at the time they’ll take it.
Note: It’s not a good idea to feed squirrels any field corn – corn ears. They can sometimes have to grow on them a deadly toxic mold that is near invisible to squirrels. So do not put corn out for squirrels. In fact, we’d recommend steering clear of any corn-based products.
In fact, also note that unfortunately, feeding squirrels too much of these sugary cereal snacks are not actually that good for them. They begin to “crave” these foods more and more, and so begin to turn their backs on the more natural foods they should be foraging for and eating and that they’d normally find in the wild.
So if you’re feeding squirrels these kinds of cereals, try not to, or at least minimize the amount you give them – or mix them as a small amount – like a treat, alongside other more natural foods so that they’ll more likely eat those too.
Squirrels eat nuts
Of course! When we think of squirrels, we naturally think of them foraging, eating and storing nuts for the winter – and for the most part, we’d be right. So we simply have to include nuts!
Nuts are indeed a favored food for squirrels. If you have any nut trees or bushes in your backyard or you live near a nut tree orchard, then there’s a good chance you’ll have squirrels living nearby, and you’ll see squirrels carrying away nuts from the trees or bushes to either eat or store.
When they’re not eating any nuts they find on the trees, squirrels will take a few to store in various places and as a tasty meal over the wintertime.
As nuts are arguable squirrels’ favorite food, they pretty much eat any nuts available, but squirrels are predominantly herbivores, and as such need to maintain a balanced diet of vitamins and minerals from vegetables and other sources. So feeding them nuts constantly is not a good practice.
The kinds of nuts squirrels eat are…
- Pecans (preferably not the shells)
- Hickory Nuts
- Macadamia Nuts
- Pine nuts out of pine cones
Nuts that are in shells are a rich source of nutrition for squirrels, in both fatty acids and protein and are suitable for all types of squirrels. They also assist in keeping teeth ground down and preventing their front teeth from growing too long.
The fat content from nuts helps squirrels to build up fat reserves for the winter when food is more scarce.
It’s hard to prevent squirrels from eating the nuts on your nut trees, and especially bushes. But there are precautions you can take to make it harder for them.
Tree trunks can be wrapped in sheets of metal, these make it hard for squirrels to climb up the tree, but that may not prevent them from using nearby tree branches and other objects to traverse in order to reach your trees.
One good point to squirrels eating nuts is that they don’t always remember where they buried every nut. This means the seeds can be dispersed far and wide. This, in turn, ensures greater survival of species of trees easily – nature manages everything!
Always try to feed squirrels nuts that they would otherwise have found natively in their natural habitat. Where we are there’s an abundance of acorn trees and chestnut trees. So we tend to feed them those – in moderation!
Peanuts – caution
Although the occasional Peanut will not harm a squirrel, and in fact, they might live near where peanuts are grown and may dig them up from time to time. But, in fact, peanuts are not nuts, they are actually classed as legumes, so these – along with corn are not an ideal food for squirrels.
Peanuts are not nuts! They are legumes, and unless a squirrel lives next to a field of peanuts where they might dig some up and eat them, then it’s best not to feed them. In fact, peanuts can harbor a near-invisible mold that is toxic and can potentially harm or kill them.
Squirrels eat seeds and grains
Squirrels will eat bird seeds. Any birdwatcher who has a bird feeder in their back yard will have likely seen squirrels attempting to get into the bird feeder containers.
Bird feeders are made available in abundance for squirrels by humans. An easy and continuous supply of food will encourage squirrels to nest nearby.
There are humane measures you can take to prevent squirrels from eating – and sometimes destroying your bird feeders. We found that this squirrel guard on Amazon is perfect!
Squirrels eat insects
When fruits, nuts – and birdseed is in short supply, such as late fall and early winter, squirrels will still look to maintain their quota of protein.
They may turn to eat insects to satisfy their protein needs. Although it’s not clear if they are specific about their choice of insect species, it’s likely they could feed on the following…
- Winged Bugs
- Insect larva
These are just a selection of the types of insects a squirrel is likely to catch and feed upon.
Squirrels eat fungi and mushrooms
It might sound surprising, but squirrels do forage for mushrooms and fungi too. Depending on the climate in many natural environment fungi is a food option for many squirrels.
Some of their favorite fungi include…
- Oyster mushrooms
- Acron truffles
- and more
Lichen grows in more moist areas such as behind tree bark or in damp crevices.
Squirrels eat plant material
Squirrels eat plant and tree materials. Parts of plants, such as…
- Plant stalks
- New fresh leaves
- Petals, e.g. passionflower petals
- The tips of plants that are soft
- Succulent flower buds
- Bulbs, e.g Tulip bulbs
- New sprouts
- Plant seeds, e.g. sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, and others
As long as the food can give them enough value in nutrient then they will consider eating it.
Squirrels tend to aim for the more tender parts of young plants. Those being young stalks, the more tender branches, soft barks, and soft twigs make ideal plant parts for squirrels to eat.
Squirrels have been known to eat eggs
Again, when food sources become scarce or when it gets harder to find food, squirrels have been known to eat whatever it can get – this may include stealing too. Squirrels will steal eggs from birds nests and even some eggs from your chicken coop if given the chance.
Squirrels prey on blackbird eggs and robin eggs. And they don’t stop there, squirrels have also been known to eat hatchlings, baby birds and young chicks. Including those unfortunate enough to have fallen from their nests and died – but this is rare.
Squirrels eat pet food
Squirrels have developed a variety of eating habits and are willing to test many things – pet food being one of them.
So they may also attempt to eat dog food and cat food that has been left out. They will also return to the same spot if it’s left there regularly. So it’s probably best to clear out any dog food or cat food after it’s been eaten by your pet.
Squirrels eat scraps and waste
Each time you take the garbage out, or the trashcan, don’t be surprised to find that squirrels may rummage around it if given the chance. Like foxes, they will feed on scraps of waste if it seems edible and may have nutritional value.
Best to try to make sure your trash is secure from squirrels and other scavengers.
Did You Know? Red and grey squirrels are both known to bury their food to dig up and eat later. The main difference between these two squirrel species is their memory. The grey squirrels are better at remembering where they buried their supplies. Red squirrels, however, are a little more forgetful.
Squirrels eat cheese!
Cheese, of course, is not a food that’s readily available for squirrels in their natural habitat or the environment where they would normally source food. Their cheese habit is most likely developed by outdoor dining restaurants and kitchen scraps.
Humans leaving cheese, or any similar savory leftovers around outdoor dining spots have left a cheese treat for squirrels. Even where any kitchen scraps that have bits of cheese have been thrown out a squirrel will forage for and find.
As the availability to eat cheese comes as mere luck, squirrels aren’t choosy about their cheese type! Most cheeses are a great source of fat content.
They’ll happily feast on almost any cheese – from chunks and scraps of cheddar, swiss, provolone, mozzarella – and just about any other cheesy food like Pizza scraps, cheese savories and crackers, and your discarded cheese sandwich.
What not to feed a squirrel
We’ve mentioned not to feed squirrels corn-based products, or corn ears, and not to feed them peanuts. We’ve also discussed not to feed them sugary treats, or to leave pet food available for them.
We recommend not feeding squirrels popcorn. It’s corn-based and has no nutritional value for squirrels. It’s too sugary and or too salty.
Probably very important on the list is bread. We do not recommend feeding bread to squirrels. Any cellulose-based products are not good for them. Brown bread is debatable but it’s perhaps better to stay clear altogether.
Here’s the most comprehensive list you’ll find about what NOT to feed squirrels.
- Processed foods
- Junk/fast food
- Dairy products
- Corn-based products
- Candy bars or sweet treats
- Sugary cereals
Squirrels will not eat
Here’s the list of food items that squirrels will avoid eating
- Chili peppers
- Serrano peppers
- Anaheim peppers
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If you want to learn more, then we’d recommend this book called ‘The Wonderful World of Squirrels‘ for much more insight into a Squirrel’s life!
If you’re looking for the ideal food that will nourish your local wild or hand-reared squirrels and that will cover all the food nutrition they need – and have them coming back for more, then this squirrel food we use from amazon is perfect!
Squirrels generally aren’t that fussy. They’ll enjoy most foods, and can act like they’re at a child’s birthday party if they can get their paws on the wrong kind of treats!
Generally, it’s best for them to enjoy foods from within their normal habitat, a healthy dose of nuts, vegetables, seeds and grains when they’re available and perhaps a bit of fruit for afters!
When times are hard, squirrels will turn to most foods. It’s tough in the wild and survival is key.
We hope this has been useful in understanding what squirrels eat.
This content has been checked and verified by a qualified veterinary practitioner. The article has been reviewed by our editorial staff and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.