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Short answer, yes, they do. Why squirrels eat birds is a bit of a longer answer, but yes, squirrels eat birds. Mother Nature blessed them with teeth, and they’re going to use them! If you’re here for a happy story, this is your chance to turn around. If you’re here for the harsh truth, here’s what science has to say about why!
Though we usually associate squirrels with acorns and other foraged plant material, squirrels are omnivores. However, they’re opportunistic omnivores, meaning their hunting style is more ‘take what you can get’ Squirrels don’t really hunt like carnivores, but a lack of hunting doesn’t stop them from being one of nature’s predators.
Squirrels will eat just about anything they come across that might have nutritional value for them. This behavior has resulted in many squirrels developing a taste for things that they shouldn’t be eating, such as human food from unsecured garbage cans. However, squirrels do have some nutritional needs that are best served by animal proteins.
Squirrels will forage for plants, roots, berries, fungi and hunt insects in the wild. However, when they come across an injured or otherwise accessible source of animal protein, they won’t hesitate to dig in at all! Squirrels will take whatever food sources are easiest to obtain. Their primary food sources will forage plant matter, but they will take advantage of a vulnerable animal when the opportunity presents itself.
Don’t worry too much; the chances that you’ll see a squirrel chowing down on a bird are slim; any birds that you keep or feed will also most likely be safe from squirrels as they are primarily prey animals, not predators.
Related Read: 8 Proven Ways to Keep Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders
Baby birds are another story entirely. Recently fledged birds that cannot protect themselves or escape are an easy target, and a squirrel might jump on the chance to take down an unattended hatchling for the vitamins and minerals that their little bodies provide. Squirrels are one of the many predators lying in wait for a mother bird to leave her nest unattended so that they can abscond with her young.
In particular, birds nest in the Rocky Mountains find their nests frequently invaded by squirrels. Baby birds cannot fly away to escape from these nimble predators who will break and make off with a fresh dinner.
It’s a gruesome truth, but it is the truth. Nature is pretty brutal and not at all like a children’s movie would have you believe.
Eggshells provide essential nutrients that squirrels need. The calcium that the shell provides is hard to come by in such significant amounts, and a single egg can provide a tremendous amount of nutrients. As a result, squirrels may raid unattended nests and make off with the eggs. Eggs are a convenient source of nutrients since they don’t fight back when you take an unattended one.
American Robins find their nests frequently under attack by fox squirrels, but squirrels will make off with any eggs they can get their paws on.
Related Read: What Birds Lay Blue Eggs and Why Does It Happen?
You can if you want to, but we don’t recommend it—at all. Leaving any kind of human food out in the open is a recipe for disaster. Depending upon the fauna in your area, you could wind up attracting everybody from bears to raccoons and neighborhood cats and dogs. It’s not a good idea.
Remember that cooked meats and eggs are not part of a squirrel’s natural diet, but squirrels will gladly eat poultry eggs if they’re left out in the open for them. So, it’s not impossible to get the neighborhood squirrels a little bit of extra protein if you want to.
As foragers, squirrels aren’t against grabbing unattended food, even if it smells like a predator animal, so you can leave out a few eggs and see if the squirrels in your neighborhood like them. But this may spoil the squirrels and disrupt their egg raids, which are a natural and essential part of the ecosystem.
Meats should probably be kept inside since they’ll go rotten quickly, and the only thing likely to end up eating them is flies. Animals will generally prefer freshly killed meats rather than one that has been stored for human consumption.
It’s best to leave foods more appropriate for their primary diet, but a little extra protein for them won’t hurt them, either.
You might also be interested in: How to Keep Squirrels Out of Hummingbird Feeders
Unfortunately, nature isn’t lovely or cuddly like Disney tried to tell us squirrels like to eat baby birds. It may or may not have been the answer you were looking for when you searched this question, but it is the honest answer. We hope we’ve helped you learn something today, even if it wasn’t a happy thing to learn!
Featured Image Credit: KellyNelson, Shutterstock
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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