QUICK SUMMARY ↬ As an omnivore, squirrels also eat meat such as bird eggs, frogs, small birds, baby birds, insects, insect larva, etc. Under famine conditions, they’ll eat any food that will give them protein.
Squirrels eat about one pound of food per week. Their main diet consists of fruits, nuts, and veggies. But contrary to the popular belief, squirrels also eat meat because they are omnivores.
We checked to see just how common egg stealing is amongst squirrels and found that pretty much every type of squirrel can be observed hunting bird eggs. This includes the following:
- Grey squirrels
- Red squirrels
- Flying squirrels
- Douglas squirrels
- Ground squirrels (various)
- Chipmunks (various)
With that said, many species eat bird eggs. But squirrels usually just get the blame.
Why do squirrels eat bird eggs?
Squirrels are opportunistic foragers. A big part of their survival strategy comes down to maximizing every possible opportunity for acquiring food, including stealing eggs.
Bird eggs or eggs, in general, are just another form of protein for squirrels. Whenever nuts become scarce, bird eggs provide sufficient nutritional value because of their protein content.
Eggs also have calcium which can be found in the bird egg’s shell. Calcium is highly beneficial for squirrels.
On top of that is convenience. Squirrels come across bird eggs a lot because they already spend time climbing through the trees and making nests. They encounter bird nests without even trying, making eggs an easy food for them to get.
During colder times of the year, nuts and fruits become scarce. So, squirrels have no other option but to search for other food sources, bird eggs included. Bird eggs are found all year round in abundance, so they should be easy to find at any time of the year.
Do squirrels eat baby birds, too?
Even beyond bird eggs, squirrels will sometimes steal nestlings after the eggs have hatched. During the nestling stage, baby birds are essentially helpless while their parents are away finding food, which gives squirrels the perfect opportunity.
Squirrels only do that when the mother bird is away. When it’s in the nest protecting its babies, squirrels have no chance to fight it because they’re not fast or strong enough. They’re a stealthy bunch!
If you really want to nerd out on the predatory habits of squirrels, there’s an article in the great basin naturalist called squirrels as predators, which provides an in-depth overview of squirrel predatory behaviors in academic research.
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Which birds are most vulnerable to squirrels?
In general, young birds are always going to be the most at risk from squirrels. This especially includes birds while they’re still in the egg or nestling phase.
It’s also been observed that birds may be at increased risk of predation from squirrels if they have any of the following characteristics:
- Birds who nest above the ground in open forest habitats with minimal shrubby cover.
- Birds who nest in the forks of trees, especially up in the canopy (which might make their nests easier for squirrels to find).
- Birds who nest in locations with higher population densities of squirrels.
- Birds who nest in locations with fewer alternative food sources for squirrels.
- Birds who nest in locations with a higher population density of songbirds.
- Birds who nest in locations with less food abundance for songbirds (which means they will have less time & energy for nest defence).
These observations come from a fascinating study on grey squirrels back in 2003 which sought to help predict the most vulnerable bird species based on their nesting habitats.
It’s been observed that nest predation by squirrels doesn’t affect all songbirds equally.
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It would seem that some songbirds only experience minimal risk, while other species like the canopy dwelling Chaffinch and Hawfinch mentioned in the above article experience significant risk from squirrels.
Do squirrels eat bird eggs out of LOVE TO STEAL?
Another interesting thing to note about why squirrels steal eggs comes down to the fact that stealing is almost like a daily part of their life.
There was a study carried out to find out if squirrels have a stealthy nature. It turns out that squirrels love to steal.
It was shown that even after storing up enough food to survive the whole winter, some squirrels still went out and stole as much as 100% of their cones from other squirrels!
So not only squirrels do eat bird eggs because of it’s nutritional value but their nature dictates them to steal. Interesting!
Can squirrels eat birds?
As we’ve already seen, squirrels can easily kill baby birds in their nestling phase. However, it’s important to note that in the vast majority of cases, adult birds will not need to worry about predation from squirrels.
While under the right circumstances, a squirrel would likely be capable of killing an adult bird, it’s just not something that happens very often.
It would simply take far too much energy for squirrels to be hunting adult birds on a regular basis.
Adult birds are extremely well equipped to escape and protect themselves from squirrel attacks, so hunting would likely only be successful during unique opportunities, like when a bird is already injured.
An easy way to confirm this is by observation of how squirrels and birds normally interact.
Truly dangerous predators develop a reputation amongst songbirds, which results in specific patterns of alarm calling & evasion whenever that predator is in the area.
Squirrels are omnivores, despite a lot of attempts to portray them as only eating nuts and herbs. They are tenacious and intelligent little creatures.
But don’t just blame them. They might be some other creatures stealing your bird eggs like crows and cats.