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Squirrels are notorious scavengers – and we commonly think of them as eating nuts, acorns, and even tree bark. However, this is far from being everything that a squirrel eats. Many people have spotted squirrels appearing to take bird eggs from nests – and even eating them! But, is there any truth to this? Do squirrels eat bird eggs?
Yes, squirrels sometimes eat bird eggs – they’re not as picky as you may think they are. In fact, these curious critters are known to steal eggs from chicken coops, tree nests, and more.
Are eggs good for squirrels?
Yes, an occasional diet of eggs can be good for your average squirrel in moderation. While bird eggs don’t make up most of the rodent’s diet, eating eggs won’t cause them any harm, provided they aren’t the predominant food they eat.
Bird eggs contain healthy amounts of fat and protein that are crucial to the healthy development of any mammal. Therefore, it’s much better for a squirrel to feast on the odd bird egg than to eat artificial snacks and treats some people leave out for them.
Eggs are also fantastic sources of calcium and provide squirrels with a good balance in this nutrient they may not be able to find elsewhere in the wild.
That said, eggs still carry various bacteria and hidden nasties, such as campylobacter and E. coli. While squirrels can be very hardy and will likely fight off nasty illnesses with ease, too many eggs in their diet could lead to illness. It’s also a good idea not to prepare and serve eggs to these resilient rodents from your squirrel feeder – unless there are a few shells mixed in with feed you buy in-store from a specialist brand.
However, don’t worry if you spot a squirrel ‘playing dead’ soon after an egg heist! It won’t be that they’re reacting badly to an egg diet, they’re simply camouflaging themselves against predator interest or laying down for a quick nap.
Why might squirrels eat bird eggs?
While it’s not uncommon to see squirrels stealing and eating bird eggs, they will normally only snack on them if they are extremely hungry. Squirrels are opportunists, meaning that a defenseless egg without a watchful parent might just prove tasty pickings.
Essentially, a squirrel is likely to eat bird eggs if they need a quick hit of calories and protein while on the move. What’s more, it’s not unheard of to see squirrels eating mealworms if they’re low on that all-important protein.
Squirrels will normally spend more time looking for nuts and fruit that they can store away for cold or rainy days. If you’re already welcoming squirrels to your yard, you’ll likely see them scampering around looking for acorns and seeds instead.
Do squirrels harm bird populations?
No – at least, studies suggest this isn’t the case. While squirrels eating bird eggs isn’t uncommon, it’s still too rare to cause a serious impact on bird breeding habits. Therefore, there’s not really much need for you to worry about local bird eggs falling prey to hungry squirrels.
If you are concerned about bird eggs getting gobbled up by squirrels in your yard, however, one of the best things you can do is set up your own squirrel feeders. By providing a variety of healthy snacks that squirrels love – that are easy enough for them to access – they won’t have to resort to eating random eggs for the odd protein fix!
What do squirrels like to eat?
Squirrels enjoy eating a wide variety of raw foods that they can easily store for months at a time. Nuts and acorns, for example, prove to be highly popular among squirrels for the simple fact that they will last months in storage – great for when the colder months roll around. Believe it or not, squirrels don’t hibernate – they just fall back on their amazing food stores.
Squirrels also enjoy tucking into the odd fruits and berries here and there, but these treats tend to make for short-term snacks – as they will, naturally, spoil very quickly. The average squirrel will also like munching down on seeds and the odd piece of corn. It’s also true that genuinely hungry squirrels will feast on leaves and tree bark if the mood takes them.
However, it’s a good idea to look for a ready-made squirrel food mix if you are stuck on what to fill their feeders with. Filling up feeders and tables with human-standard fruit and nuts is not recommended – these may contain added sugars and hidden additives that squirrels simply won’t react well to.
You should never feed squirrels anything that comes spiced or covered in garlic and salt. Chocolate and candy treats, too, are likely to harm them. The squirrel is famous for foraging around for most foodstuffs – but they don’t know what’s likely to harm them, so it’s important you show some conscience.
If in doubt, opt for raw food – the standard that squirrels will normally find and forage for in the wild. However, did you know that squirrels love peanut butter? Choose an organic, additive-free blend to add to your feeders.
There’s also a balance to be made. Some gardeners dislike squirrels sharing feeders with birds – meaning that you will have to carefully consider the food you’re leaving out for your avian friends. Could you set up a special feeder just for squirrels full of enticing treats, for example? It may be worth setting up a table just for squirrels at another end of the yard.
Otherwise, squirrels are pretty great at finding their own food – but to welcome more to your yard, it doesn’t hurt to offer a few treats.