When we think of squirrels, we typically picture these adorable furry little animals nibbling on nuts, seeds, and fruits. And while it is true that squirrels are typically herbivores, they can actually have a very varied diet. For example, when their primary food resources are challenging to find in the summer, they resort to fungi.
So, squirrels are essentially opportunistic feeders, and they sometimes step away from their usual diet and go carnivorous. But have you ever wondered, do squirrels eat birds and bird eggs? Keep reading to find out!
Do Squirrels Eat Birds?
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Squirrels have a deep love for eating. These small to medium-sized rodents love birdseed, so you’d often see them lurking around bird feeders.
Due to the squirrels’ high demand for food and the fact that they can eat practically anything, there are instances when these predominantly herbivorous animals become omnivores. They can sometimes feast on smaller animals, ranging from mammals to reptiles and insects to amphibians. And yes, sometimes, even birds.
When needed for survival, squirrels can modify their diet and eat bird eggs from unsupervised nets, young hatchlings, and smaller birds. They don’t attack and aggressively go into the nests to get their fill. But they check the bird nests, and if they find an opportune moment, they would snatch the eggs and hatchlings.
It is hard to believe that squirrels can eat birds, but they do so for survival and only when food resources are scarce. Squirrels tend to follow an order of food options to survive when they can’t find enough plants to satisfy their hunger. They will first try to steal unattended bird eggs from the nests, and if that fails, they may venture out to eat a live baby bird.
Do Squirrels Eat Adult Birds?
The main targets of squirrels are bird eggs and baby birds. Adult birds are out of the question because larger adult birds like the eagle, hawk, and owl prey on squirrels. So, squirrels know they don’t stand a chance against them.
So, if you have birds as pets and are worried, rest assured that these animals cannot eat a full-grown bird like a Robin. It can only eat smaller birds and bird eggs.
The squirrel may attack an enormous bird out of desperation and extreme hunger, but it knows the result would not be in its favor. The only time squirrels can eat an adult bird is if it is already dead, and the squirrel will eat some of its meat for sustenance.
Why Squirrels Eat Bird Eggs and Hatchlings
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Like all animals, squirrels also deviate from their usual diet when they can’t forage enough nuts and seeds to sustain their needs. So, when there is a food shortage, squirrels will do what they must and may eat bird meat and eggs for survival.
Squirrels can be cunning foragers. This means that part of their strong survival skills is eating whatever food source is available to them, including baby birds and eggs. If the squirrels pass by a nest without the parent birds, they’ll further explore the nest out of curiosity, hunger, or even both.
Aside from these reasons, here are a few more reasons a squirrel decides to feast on a hatchling or egg:
- Squirrels need for certain nutrients like calcium, and bird eggs are an excellent source.
- Squirrels who just gave birth and are currently nursing need more nutrition and a better diet so they can provide for their offspring. And a purely plant-based diet may not be enough. So, they seek meals with higher protein content in the form of bird meat and bird eggs.
- Nests are within easy reach and are easier to find, and being opportunistic foragers, squirrels take what is easily available.
- Squirrels are naturally sneaky creatures, and getting something that doesn’t belong to them is second nature, thus stealing the eggs.
Deterring Squirrels Without Harming Them
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You enjoy feeding the birds in your backyard, but you don’t want the squirrels to eat their food or be near the birds fearing they might eat the bird eggs or the baby birds.
So, what can you do to stop the squirrels from stealing the bird seeds and being a threat to young birds?
1. Make your garden or backyard uninviting for them by making food unavailable. If the squirrels learn that they can’t forage for seeds or nuts in your area, they’ll visit less and stop coming by too often.
2. Use a feeding station for the birds. Some squirrels are stubborn and may still attempt to grab a handful of seeds, but they’ll soon realize how futile this is. You can also add another component to the bird’s seeds that squirrels can’t tolerate — chili.
Don’t worry about the birds finding it too spicy because chili is undetected by birds, so they can’t taste it or experience the heat it brings.
3. If you enjoy the sight of squirrels on your property once in a while but want them to stay away from the birds, then set up squirrel feeders in another part of your garden. Feed them separately in a designated place so they’d know that the dedicated area is where the food supply is.
These tips can help deter squirrels without harming them. Unless you make sure that the squirrels are well-provided for when it comes to food, you may not be able to completely protect the baby birds and the eggs. If they have a reliable source of food, squirrels will have no reason to scavenge, eat the hatchlings, or steal the baby birds or eggs.