Squirrels are such cute little animals! They scurry through branches, nibble on nuts, and occasionally scold us with funny little sounds. They can be fun to watch but don’t let them fool you! Like all wildlife, these animals are playing for keeps.
Birders know the truth about squirrels all too well. At bird feeders, we see these small mammals going to extremes, and that’s just scratching the surface! Squirrels do what it takes to survive even if living means eating bird eggs and occasional small birds.
I know, it seems hard to believe but read on to learn more about the “dark side” of squirrel behavior.
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Do Squirrels Eat Bird Eggs?
In a word, “yes”. Squirrels indeed eat bird eggs, and more often than you think. Most squirrel species eat eggs when they happen to find hidden nests or when adult birds fail to drive them off.
That includes squirrel species from the commonly seen Gray and Fox Squirrels to ground squirrels, Chipmunks, and even those super cute flying squirrels!
However, in all honesty, we can’t blame them. Squirrels are wild animals doing what they do, and they have been eating bird eggs for thousands, if not millions of years. As unwholesome as it is to contemplate, their diet is part of nature, part of the natural balance of things.
They don’t eat eggs all the time, but in some places, certain squirrel species are significant nest predators. For example, Chipmunks are important nest predators of Ovenbirds and other ground-nesting birds. Backyard squirrels also eat the eggs of woodpeckers and many other bird species.
Why Do They Eat Them?
Squirrels eat bird eggs for the same reason so many people enjoy eggs. This type of food is an excellent source of protein and other nutrients.
As long as a squirrel finds an unprotected nest or a birdhouse, all it has to do is pick up the eggs and enjoy an easy meal. They are hard to pass up and that’s why squirrels love to eat them.
They aren’t the only animal that eats eggs, either. Birds like jays and crows, and even woodpeckers eat the eggs of other birds. Many other mammals also eat eggs, even opossums, skunks, and occasional deer!
Eggs are such a nutritious food source, squirrels love to eat them. Although they can live on a diet that does not include eggs, every extra bit of protein helps. They act as a nice little supplement to a diet composed of nuts, seeds, and other types of plant matter.
What Do Squirrels Generally Eat?
Squirrel’s diet consists of a variety of items. Although we associate them with nibbling on nuts, these small mammals are actually omnivores and quite opportunistic feeders.
In general, most of their diet consists of a variety of nuts (peanuts, acorns), seeds (such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and other available seeds), various additional types of plant matter, and occasional small creatures and animals.
Related: Squirrel-proof bird feeders
However, squirrels especially like beechnuts, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, walnuts, and other nuts with hard shells. Their sharp, strong gnawing teeth are very much adapted to cracking open and eating these types of nuts. In all likelihood, they probably can’t survive without eating a fair number of nuts on a regular basis.
Speaking of their eating needs, squirrels do need to eat a lot. These furry animals eat their own weight in food, once per week!
To meet those dietary needs, these little creatures also eat flower buds, lots of berries, some seeds, and other things they can find. In nature, those other “things” can be anything from insects and small snakes (!) to eggs and baby birds.
They are very opportunistic and routinely eat small birds that are sick or have flown into windows. Fox Squirrels, in particular, can be more predatory. These big squirrels have been known to actively hunt mice, birds, and even smaller squirrels!
Squirrels can eat human-made foods, too (even though they should not), including dairy products, chocolate, and candy, but this isn’t too good for them and can cause irritation.
When Do They Raid Bird Nests?
Squirrels raid bird nests whenever they find them. If they could eat eggs all year long, squirrels would certainly do that. The reason they don’t is that most birds don’t nest all year long.
These mammals don’t wait for birds to incubate eggs or pick eggs that have just been laid. Since most bird nests are hidden or well-defended, to eat eggs and nestlings, squirrels have to take advantage of the few chances they get.
This translates to squirrels eating more eggs when most birds are nesting; in spring and summer. Higher protein requirements might also urge pregnant female and mother squirrels to look for more bird eggs and other small animals.
Squirrels will go after any nest that they find but prey more on the bird species that nest in the places that squirrels frequent the most.
For example, arboreal squirrels like Gray and Fox Squirrels probably eat more eggs of canopy nesting species than other birds.
Being opportunistic, squirrels occasionally risk their lives to eat the eggs of hawks and owls! However, that’s a pretty risky endeavor. Unlike small birds that would just try to drive them away, raptors would be more than happy to simply turn any nest raiding squirrel into lunch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do squirrels like to eat eggs?
Yes, squirrels like to eat eggs. They eat eggs almost any chance that they can get.
Do all squirrel species eat bird eggs?
All squirrel species eat bird eggs.
Will squirrels eat raw bird eggs?
Yes, squirrels will eat raw bird eggs to get more nutrients in their diet, or if there are not many other suitable feeding options available for them.
Do squirrels eat chicken eggs?
Squirrels do eat chicken eggs, and sometimes put a lot of effort to get in chicken coops. As we know, chicken eggs are high in protein and fat, plus they contain other useful nutrients. For squirrels, bird eggs are a source of calcium (yes, they eat the eggshells too), as well as many other vitamins.