Do Squirrels Eat Birds?

Squirrel species that eat birds

Squirrels are pretty nimble little rodents and they are found all over the world. Their family’s name is called Sciuridae and that includes prairie dogs, marmots, and chipmunks.

You will find more than 200 species of squirrels; they are categorized into three types: flying squirrels, tree squirrels, and ground squirrels.


Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris)

This cute little squirrel is small with a reddish-grey coat with creamy-white undersides.

You will notice white around its eyes as well.

Its tail, even though long and bushy, is not as long and bush as the other tree squirrels.

In summer this little squirrel might get black stripes on its side.

It is a very good climber; well it would have to be – living in the forests and woods in northern Asia and Europe.

Their range extends from Ireland, UK, and Western Europe to Mongolia, Russia and NW China.


Flying Squirrels (Pteromyini)

An adult flying squirrel is quite small. Their head, body, and tail are only about 10 inches long. They have large black eyes.

There are two loose folds of skin between their front and hind legs.

It is this which helps it to ‘fly’ a distance of more than 80 yards.

They are covered with soft brown fur and their underbellies are white.

There are 3 species of the flying squirrels, making them native to North and Central America and others native to certain parts of northern Europe.


Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)

The grey squirrel is to be found in woods, gardens, and parks across country and town.

It can become very tame. It visits gardens that have feeders and bird tables. They can become a pest to bird lovers.

Squirrels love hazelnuts and they crack open the shell in half. They enjoy nibbling on pine cones.

When food is abundant in autumn they catch it. Their nest is called a ‘dray’ on branches or high up in trees.

It has a silver-grey coat. Its face is brownish in color and its feet with a pale underside. It has the typical bushy tail of the squirrel.

They are found in the eastern USA and even north into Canada. They have been introduced to some of the western parts of the USA.


They are not really city slickers

Way back in 1856, someone noticed a squirrel in a tree near the New York City Hall.

When it was reported, it was told that squirrels were being released into the city to “create pockets of rural peace and calm.”

That’s according to the University of Pennsylvania historian, Etienne Benson, who has studied squirrels.

Soon the novelty wore off though, and people started regarding the squirrels as nuisances.

Today, “people’s experiences with squirrels depend on their real estate investments.” Now you know why you see squirrels in the city – invited by the people.

See Also: The Ultimate Guide To Birds Of New York


Do squirrels eat birds?

If someone were to ask you that, you might immediately, answer “nuts!” But have you ever really wondered just what do squirrels eat?

Did you know that apart from nuts; that birds also feature on their menu?

Even though most squirrels are vegetarians, you get the odd exception such as the flying squirrel. This cute little critter actually enjoys eating small birds.

Do birds eat squirrels? Yes, owls and hawks are known to swoop down on squirrels darting around for acorns, particularly the red-tailed and Cooper’s hawk.

The Great Horned Owl and the barred owl are typical owl species that eat squirrels.


Do squirrels eat birds’ eggs?

Yes, they do, actually. They will go so far as to steal eggs from birds’ nests. But generally speaking, they are vegetarian.

Their main diet usually consists of seeds and nuts, lichens, fruits, mushrooms, roots, leaves, pine cones, twigs, and some fruits. And they simply adore corn on the cob that has been dried and hung up for them.

They are definitely not picky when it comes to their meals and eat pretty much all that comes their way.


How do squirrels manage to eat birds?

Some people have reported noticing chipmunks and squirrels eating dead carcasses of birds that died from flying into windows. It might seem unusual behavior for many to believe – what triggers such behavior? 

Most people also think of rodents as seed-eating herbivores, but it turns out that many become omnivores when needs be.

They will eat insects and meat whenever it becomes available to them.  One species of squirrel, for instance, are well known to be nest raiders.

They will devour both eggs in the nest as well as baby chicks. Furthermore, they have been noted to occasionally kill adult birds as well. People have reported seeing grey squirrels eat road kills on the road.


Why do squirrels eat birds?

So you see, squirrels and chipmunks are actually excellent little hunters and one study shows animal matter being found in the stomachs of 75% of chipmunks that were examined.

Look at this study that was published in The Scientific Naturalist:

Researchers reported on North American red squirrel pups falling victim to attacks from nearby male squirrels! The males kill them and then eat them.

A researcher, Jessica Haines of the University of Alberta witnessed this aggression from the squirrels. It’s called infanticide.

She witnessed a male squirrel that she knew – it had been marked with colored markings on its ear. She watched it run up a tree to a females nest and sink its teeth into a pup.

Her studies went on to report that the male squirrels doing the killing weren’t the fathers of the pups.

Squirrels lurking around a birdhouse

Not only did she notice this from her research but she also mentioned that “Squirrels also eat things like baby bunnies, baby birds, and birds’ eggs”.

She concluded that people view the squirrels often as pets or pests in their gardens. The truth is that North American red squirrels are wild animals. They need to survive and will do anything to achieve that.

Haines said that the pup carcasses did show signs of being eaten by the males. She said that she’s seen dried mushroom, bunny legs and even once, she saw a jawbone from a coyote stockpiled in the squirrel’s storerooms!

In fact, squirrels commonly store their food in holes. They also bury their food in the ground for the winter months when food is scarce.

In early spring, some of their buried nuts begin to sprout and the little squirrels are forced to find other sources of food.

Naturally, they would eat what was available at the time, and birds would not be an exception. Sometimes they would even kill bigger bids.


Normally, squirrels don’t eat
mice, rats or birds

However, they are fond of eating foods that are fed to birds from their feeding containers.

They aren’t omnivorous; that means they prefer fruits and veggies, particularly the ones grown on trees, in gardens, and in vegetable gardens.

They actually prefer ripened fruits to unripe ones.

They enjoy catching their own fruit and eating the fruit that has fallen to the ground.

Even though squirrels have been found to attack young rats and mice straying out of their nests, these types of attacks are not as common as attacks on small birds.


In the urban areas

Squirrels will often sit behind garbage cans, watching their prey from afar – they can do this as they have sharp vision.

This enables them to watch for small birds, rats and mice form the top of trees.

They will pounce on these animals at the right moment, using their sharp claws to grab them.

Often they catch these creatures merely for sports and not for consumption. When they’ve run out of their stock of nuts, fruits, and seeds and are extremely hunger, they’ll eat off these animals.


Many backyards have become battlegrounds between homeowners and squirrels

This happens over food. Some people allow squirrels to eat the food they have left for the birds.

They kind of compromise, but the real problems start when the people forget that the squirrel will soon need and want more. And then what do some people do? – They poison the poor little critters.

So what’s to be done? The first step is to place the bird feeders where squirrels can’t get access to them.

Sometimes you find feeders that are designed to keep squirrels out. You can also top your feeder with those plastic domes called baffles. This blocks squirrels’ access.

But they’re still pretty crafty and often figure it all out. They will launch themselves at the feeder, bounce off it and gobble up the seeds that get spilled on the ground!


Make your own feeder

  • First step: Take the wire and attach each of the ends to either trees, posts or other convenient structures.

  • Second step: Get some clean, empty soda bottles that are one liter or more.

  • Third step: Puncture a hole in the bottom of each of the bottles.

  • Fourth step: Slide three or four of them on each side of the feeders on to the wire.

These will prevent even very athletic squirrels from being able to dine at your feeders.

Another solution is to sprinkle some cayenne pepper, the pepper flakes, or garlic pepper on the ground or around the feeders. A squirrel won’t go near anything with cayenne.

See Also: Where To Hang Your Hummingbird Feeder


Never harm the squirrels by totally unacceptable methods

What would that be?

Trapping them, or poisoning them.

Rather consider buying a specialty feeder for the squirrels for themselves.

Then you can get double the pleasure by watching your feathered friends as well as your cute wild visitors, the squirrels, come into your garden – all part of the wonderful world of nature!

The world is in desperate need of more trees and the little squirrels are great at planting trees.

They bury their acorns and then forget where they put them. Those forgotten acorns become oak trees!


It all just goes to show

The above researcher, Jessica Haines, knows that when it comes to the world of squirrels, we still have so much to learn about these seemingly ordinary creatures.

The Kluane Red Squirrel Project has been ongoing for nearly three decades already, and we as humans, are discovering just how clever, industrious, and adaptable these little creatures have become to cope where humans have ‘placed’ them.

These little ‘bird-eaters’ are miniature landscapers as well.