Do Squirrels Eat Birds? – Understanding Squirrel Diet

Gray squirrel facing a red cardinal

When we think of squirrels and birds, we often imagine them coexisting peacefully in our backyards. But is this always the case? Unfortunately, the answer is a bit more complicated than you might think.

Generally speaking, squirrels eat birds. Since squirrels are categorized as opportunistic omnivores, they don’t pass up the chance to eat bird eggs, baby birds, and even other small mammals. However, it is important to note that they mainly feed on fruits, nuts, and seeds.

In this article, we will share with you some facts about what squirrels eat, including the possibility of birds. We will also give you some tips on how you can keep your backyard safe from these greedy little rodents. Let’s begin!

Overview of Squirrels’ Diet

Squirrel eating on a tree branch with ferns

Squirrels are often mistaken for herbivores, but they are actually omnivores. This means their diet includes both plant and animal-based foods. For your reference, below is a list of common squirrel food sources:

  • Acorn
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Tiny snakes
  • Birdfeed
  • Apple
  • Flowers
  • Sap
  • Hickory nuts
  • Baby mice
  • Truffles
  • Mushrooms
  • Pine nuts
  • Banana
  • Shoots
  • Peach
  • Crickets
  • Leafy greens
  • Grasses
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Bird eggs
  • Lizard
  • Bark
  • Baby birds
  • Kiwi
  • Small adult birds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Berries
  • Winged bugs
  • Squash
  • Dog and cat food
  • Scraps and waste

As you can see, most of a squirrel’s diet consists of various plants, nuts, vegetables, and seeds. Yet, they are also known to occasionally eat birds. This varied diet helps them thrive in different environments and seasons.

Fun Fact: Squirrels are among the most resourceful creatures in nature. To prepare for winter, they bury food during warmer seasons. They remember these caches and return to them weeks or even months later.

Do Squirrels Eat Dead Birds?

Yes, squirrels eat dead birds because their diet is highly opportunistic, meaning they consume almost anything available.

This behavior is driven by their need for protein, fat, and calcium, all of which are nutrients that are crucial for their survival.

I once saw a squirrel at the park eating a dead bird. It tore strips of flesh off the carcass and consumed them. This continued for some time until a large portion was eaten.

I later learned that this makes sense for squirrels. They need a large supply of nutrients and are willing to get them from whatever they can find, even if that means eating dead birds. Basically, it’s all about survival for them.

Do Squirrels Eat Bird Eggs and Baby Birds?

Red squirrel and bird in the forest

Squirrels eat bird eggs and baby birds, particularly when their usual food sources are scarce. This behavior is more common than many might expect, highlighting their opportunistic feeding habits.

Squirrels are known to raid nests, which is a fact underscored by a 2003 study. This research specifically noted that Red and Grey Squirrels in British woodlands often prey upon the eggs and young of songbirds.

Further, the same study revealed that birds with open nests in tree canopies are most at risk from squirrels.

Yet, it should be noted that those nesting closer to the ground are not safe either, as squirrels are adaptable and can ransack such roosts, too.

Watch this video of a squirrel invading a nest and eventually eating the mother bird and its eggs:

Squirrel attack nest and eats bird

How to Protect Your Backyard Birds From Squirrels

There are many different ways to protect backyard birds from squirrels. The following are just eight of the most effective ones:

  • Choose the right location: Place bird feeders away from trees, roofs, and other structures that squirrels can jump from. Ideally, feeders should be at least ten feet away from such launch points.
  • Use squirrel-proof bird feeders: Invest in bird feeders designed to keep squirrels out. These often have weight-activated mechanisms that close the feeding ports when a squirrel climbs on.
  • Install baffles: Place baffles on bird feeder poles or above hanging feeders. These smooth, dome-shaped barriers prevent squirrels from reaching your backyard birds’ food.
  • Spice it up: Mixing a small amount of cayenne pepper or similar spices into the birdseed can deter squirrels, as they are sensitive to the spice, whereas birds are not.
  • Opt for squirrel-resistant seeds: Some types of seeds, like safflower or nyjer, are less appealing to squirrels. Using these can reduce squirrel interest.
  • Use a seed tray: In order to keep your garden tidy and reduce the likelihood of having to deal with pesky squirrels scavenging on the ground, attach a tray underneath your bird feeder.
  • Regularly clean your backyard: Regularly cleaning up spilled seeds and maintaining the area around bird feeders can help minimize the attraction for squirrels.
  • Feed squirrels separately: Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense. Provide a squirrel feeder away from your bird feeders. Stock it with corn or other food that squirrels prefer to keep them occupied.

Each of these methods has its own strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the specific context of your backyard and the local squirrel population, one method may be more effective than another.

In most instances, combining several of these strategies yields the best results.

How to Squirrel Proof Your Birdhouse

Squirrel on a roof corner

Without a doubt, squirrel-proofing your birdhouse can be challenging, as squirrels are resourceful and agile creatures. Yet, here are ten actionable steps that can help in deterring such rodents from your birdhouse:

  • Use slippery materials: Cover the birdhouse pole or the roof of the birdhouse with slippery materials like a sheet of metal or plastic. These surfaces make it difficult for squirrels to maintain their grip.
  • Tilt the birdhouse: Mount the birdhouse on a slight angle. While birds can still access it, this can make it more challenging for squirrels to get in and out of.
  • Utilize reflective surfaces: Attaching materials like old CDs around the birdhouse can deter squirrels because of light reflections.
  • Invest in motion-activated sprinklers: If squirrels are approaching your birdhouse, try setting up a motion-activated sprinkler that emits water to scare them away.
  • Buy a metal guard: Metal guards are designed to fit around the outside of a birdhouse, protecting it from squirrels that might try to get inside.
  • Use spring-loaded perches: Install spring-loaded perches that collapse under the weight of a squirrel but can support the weight of birds. This discourages squirrels from lingering around the birdhouse.
  • Place a roof overhang: A significant overhang on the roof of the birdhouse can prevent squirrels from being able to reach the entrance hole from above.
  • Install motion-sensor lights: Another way to keep squirrels at bay is by installing motion-sensor lights. These lights will turn on when a squirrel or other animal gets too close. This will startle them, and they’ll run away.
  • Employ decoys: Placing decoy predators, such as fake owls or big snakes, near your birdhouse is another great strategy. The presence of these baits can deter squirrels from approaching.
  • Implement the 5-7-9 rule: Bear in mind that squirrels are limited in their jumping abilities — they can’t leap higher than five feet, span distances more than seven feet horizontally, or drop from heights above nine feet. Therefore, place your birdhouse beyond these distances, ideally adding an extra foot for security.

Remember that while it is vital to protect birds, it is also crucial to treat all wildlife, including squirrels, humanely. These methods aim to discourage squirrels without causing them harm.

As a bonus, here is a video that shows you how to make a squirrel-proof bird feeder:

How to Make ● A Unique Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder ( that actually works ! )

Frequently Asked Questions

Squirrel and bird on looking for food

Do Squirrels Eat Hummingbirds?

Squirrels typically do not hunt hummingbirds. However, note that they are not opposed to eating their eggs or young. If squirrels find a hummingbird nest within reach, they’ll most likely take advantage of the opportunity.

Do Squirrels Get Into Birdhouses?

Squirrels will enter birdhouses if they aren’t designed to be squirrel-proof. Their initial goal is usually to find seeds, nuts, and other plant-based foods stored inside.

Do Birds and Squirrels Fight?

Yes, birds and squirrels do engage in conflicts. For one, birds often chase squirrels away when they feel threatened, especially near their nests.

On the other hand, squirrels are known for raiding nests. They primarily target eggs and chicks but may occasionally attack and eat adult birds as well.

Do Birds and Squirrels Get Along?

Generally, birds and squirrels do not get along well. Squirrels often intimidate or chase birds away, especially around food sources or nesting areas.

This tension is common in areas where both birds and squirrels compete for resources.

Fun Fact: Interestingly, squirrels are known to eavesdrop on bird chatter. They use the sounds of bird communication to gauge safety in their environment. If birds are calmly chatting, squirrels take it as a sign that there’s no immediate danger nearby.

We hope this article has clarified whether squirrels eat birds and provided valuable insights into their complex dietary behaviors. If you have any further questions on the topic, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below

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