If you want to feed the squirrels in your yard or you need to feed a rescue until you can get it to a care facility, then you need to know what squirrels like to eat.
Squirrels are omnivores that eat plants and meats. Depending on the season and availability, squirrels eat fruits, vegetables, plants, fungi, trees, nuts, seeds, animals, eggs, and bones. Squirrels will also eat junk food, cereals, bread, and pet food, even though these aren’t good for them.
As you can tell from the long list above, squirrels are opportunistic feeders that will eat just about anything – whether it’s good for them or not. Knowing what squirrels like to eat and what’s good for them will make it easy to feed them healthy food and know what not to give them, for their own good.
Foods squirrels like to eat
Squirrels like to eat fruits
Squirrels like to eat most fruits such as apples, melons, figs and plums, but berries are always a favorite food. Squirrels are happy to climb trees and vines to get to fruit because the high sugar content gives them the energy they need to build nests, look for food, and put on weight for winter.
Here is an alphabetical list of the fruits squirrels like to eat:
- Kiwi fruit
Squirrels like to eat vegetables
Squirrels like to eat vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables and the leaves of root vegetables, such as carrots. But squirrels will eat pretty much any vegetable, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, butternut, pumpkin, spinach, and tomatoes. Feed squirrels raw vegetables with the skin on.
Here is an alphabetical list of the vegetables that squirrels like to eat:
- Brussels sprouts
- Corn kernels
- Eggplant (aubergine)
- Sweet potatoes
Squirrels like to eat plants
Squirrels like to eat all parts of plants, including the roots, stems, stalks, seeds, and flowers or buds. Their favorite snack is young and tender new plant growth, such as sprouts, curled up leaves, and flower buds.
Squirrels get moisture from the plants they eat, which helps them with the amount of water a squirrel needs to drink each day.
Squirrels like to eat fungi
Squirrels like to eat fungi that grows on trees or on the ground, including lichen, mushrooms, toadstools, and truffles. Some squirrels hang mushrooms and toadstools on tree branches to dry, which preserves them so the squirrels can eat these in the cold winter months.
Squirrels like to eat parts of trees
Squirrels like to eat the soft young branches, leaves, flowers and buds on trees, which are a staple in their diet. They also eat tree nuts and seeds. Squirrels often strip tree bark off to drink the sweet, sugary sap running below the bark.
Below is an alphabetical list of the trees that squirrels like to eat from:
- Honey Locust
- Maple (Japanese, red, and sugar maples)
Squirrels like to eat nuts
Squirrels like to eat nuts because they get protein for muscle growth and healthy fats for energy and weight gain for cold winter months. Nibbling on hard nuts and their shells wears down a squirrel’s front teeth, which never stop growing. Squirrels love all nuts, especially acorns.
Nuts form a big part of any squirrel’s diet and a squirrel’s body is designed to climb trees, collect nuts in cheek pouches, and eat or bury these nuts in their territory.
Squirrels that are fed will often stare at people and beg for nuts and other treats to eat.
Here is an alphabetical list of the nuts that squirrels like to eat:
- Brazil nuts (feed in small amounts)
- Hickory nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Peanuts (actually a legume, not a nut)
- Pine nuts from pine cones (these are actually seeds, not nuts)
Squirrels like to eat seeds
Squirrels like to eat seeds because they get vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats from seeds – everything the seeds contain to start and feed a new plant. Squirrels enjoy snacking on pine nuts from pinecones, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, safflower seeds, and sunflower seeds.
Squirrels like to eat meat and eggs
Squirrels like to eat insects, worms, small animals, birds, amphibians, and eggs for protein. They are more likely to do this when: nuts are scarce; an animal is weak, dying, or dead; the opportunity arises; or a female squirrel is pregnant and needs more protein than usual.
Below is an alphabetical list of the alternative protein sources that squirrels like to eat:
- Birds (small adult birds and baby birds, including baby chickens)
- Eggs (chicken or bird eggs)
- Rabbits (small rabbits and young rabbits)
- Snakes (small snakes and baby snakes)
- Winged bugs
Squirrels like to eat bones
Squirrels like to eat the bones of small animals they kill for food and any bones they find in the wild, including large animal bones. Squirrels also chew on tortoise and turtle shells, and the antlers of dead animals. They do this to keep their ever-growing front teeth short and for the calcium they get from bones.
What gray squirrels eat
Gray squirrels eat mainly acorns and other nuts. They are opportunistic feeders and will also eat fruits, vegetables, plants and plant bulbs, parts of trees, fungi, nuts, small animals, insects, eggs, bones, turtle shells, and plant crops, such as corn.
Gray squirrels are tree squirrels so they do not hibernate and must save food for winter, which is why they hide nuts in the ground in summer and fall.
Gray squirrels are very good at remembering where they hide nuts and digging them up in winter. But they are also good at sniffing out the nuts and seeds buried by red squirrels, who struggle to remember where they hide things. So gray squirrels often steal red squirrels’ winter food stores and eat that too.
What red squirrels eat
Red squirrels eat mainly seeds from evergreen trees, especially pine trees. They also eat fruits, vegetables, plants, parts of trees, fungi, nuts, small animals, insects, eggs, and bones. Red squirrels hang mushrooms and toadstools on branches to dry out, so they can eat them in winter.
Red squirrels are tree squirrels so they do not hibernate and must save food for winter, which is why they hide nuts, green pine cones and seeds in the ground in summer and fall. But they often forget where this food is hidden. Forgotten nuts and seeds are either found and eaten by gray squirrels, or they germinate and grow into trees when the weather warms up.
How to feed wild squirrels
If you are sure you should be feeding wild squirrels and you want to feed them from the above list of foods that squirrels like to eat, then here are my best tips for feeding squirrels and some products on Amazon that will help you do this safely for both you and the squirrels:
- Squirrels should never become dependent on humans for food or become tame. If they do, there’s a good chance they will die from hunger at some point. Never feed squirrels by hand or teach them to take food from you.
- Put a durable squirrel feeder in a tree where you know the squirrels like to go, or mount a hopper bird feeder with a wide seed tray.
- Put premixed squirrel-friendly treats on the feeder for squirrels to enjoy. If you put out nuts, fruits, vegetables, or any other wild squirrel foods, make sure they’re unsalted, raw, in their shell or with their skin on – food needs to be as close to natural as possible to be healthy for squirrels. If you give squirrels nuts and seeds, you’ll soon get a chance to watch them bury the food for winter.
- For more fun and to appeal to squirrels’ natural instinct to forage for food, try this squirrel-go-round feeder that keeps squirrels busy as they catch their corn on the cob.
- If you’re feeding gray squirrels, consider hiding nuts in shallow soil near their nest to give them a chance to find the food.
- Birdseed isn’t a healthy diet for squirrels. Stop squirrels from eating the birdseed in your bird feeder by using a squirrel-proof bird feeder. Put the squirrel feeder as far away from the birdfeeder as possible.
- For hygiene reasons, clean the squirrel feeder once a week and throw away any uneaten food.
Have you seen the cute videos on the YouTube channel Movie Squirrels? Take a look at the following video where squirrels find a squirrel feeder full of delicious treats…