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Do Squirrels Eat Birds & Bird Eggs? (4 Reasons Why It Happens)

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While they aren’t known to hunt, squirrels eat birds. Tree and flying squirrels raid birds’ nests, steal the eggs, eat nestlings, and sometimes kill and eat adult birds too. 

Are you concerned that resident squirrels could kill and eat the birds in your garden? Have you noticed some conflict between wild birds and squirrels at the bird feeder? 

In this article, we explore why squirrels eat birds and birds’ eggs and how to stop squirrel-bird conflict at the bird feeder.  

Do Squirrels Eat Birds?

Squirrels occasionally eat birds as part of their omnivore diet. Squirrels are foragers and scavengers. And as opportunistic omnivores, they don’t hesitate to eat freely available meat such as weak or dead birds.

While birds are not a staple in squirrels’ diet, they do occasionally take part in feasting on bird meat.

If food is scarce, squirrels also raid birds’ nests and eat defenseless nestlings (baby birds) and eggs.

In particular, Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are known for raiding birds’ nests, stealing eggs, and eating nestlings. They are also known to kill and eat adult birds occasionally. [1] 

Do Squirrels Eat Bird Eggs?

Yes, squirrels eat birds’ eggs when other foods are scarce. Squirrels are known to raid birds’ nests and steal and eat the eggs. 

Squirrels forage for food, including stealing bird eggs. The birds do sometimes try to defend their nest and chase the squirrels away. But getting into a conflict with a squirrel is a risk for birds. 

Although they are not known for hunting, squirrels can defend themselves with their sharp claws and teeth.

In most cases, the birds will fly away to protect themselves, leaving their eggs to the squirrels.

Do Squirrels Eat Bird Eggs

Do Squirrels Eat Baby Birds?

Squirrels eat nestlings (baby birds) when they need extra protein or when other foods are scarce. They are easy to hunt and kill, as they can’t fly or protect themselves.

While the parental birds are out hunting for food for their young nestlings, squirrels can invade their nest and eat the chicks.

Squirrels do this when desperate for protein or when other foods are scarce.

What Squirrels Eat Birds? 

Tree squirrels, like the Easter gray squirrel and American red squirrel, and flying squirrels are known to eat birds’ eggs and nestlings. 

When food is scarce and tree squirrels and flying squirrels need protein, they are known to eat birds’ eggs, nestlings, and injured birds. 

Gray Squirrels Eat Birds

Eastern Gray Squirrels’ Diet

Eastern Gray Squirrels eat nestlings, birds’ eggs, and sometimes small birds. 

The Eastern gray squirrel is one of the most common types of squirrels around the world. Native to North America, this resilient squirrel eats a diet high in nuts, seeds, flowers, and tree buds. 

The gray squirrels are omnivores and are known to get protein from meat in the form of insects, frogs, bird eggs, and nestlings.[2]  

Red Squirrels Eat Birds

American Red Squirrels’ Diet 
Image Source

American red squirrels are ‘granivores,’ and eat a diet high in seeds. However, they do eat small birds, birds’ eggs, and nestlings. 

American red squirrels have a diet high in pine tree seeds, but the availability of these is seasonal. This squirrel also eats mushrooms, tree buds, flowers, fleshy fruits, tree sap, and bark. 

For protein, red squirrels eat insects, bird eggs, nestlings, adult birds, and young snowshoe hares.[3]

Flying Squirrels Eat Birds

The nocturnal Southern flying squirrels and Northern flying squirrels are omnivores and eat small birds, birds’ eggs, and nestlings when there is an opportunity. 

Southern flying squirrels love hickory nuts and acorns. They also eat seeds, berries, fruit, leaf buds, fungus, and bark. For protein, they eat moths, young mice, carrion, young birds, and birds’ eggs.[4]

Lichens and fungi make up a large portion of the Northern flying squirrels’ diet. They also eat nuts, acorns, fruits, buds, and sap. For animal protein, they occasionally eat insects and bird eggs.[5] 

4 Reasons Squirrels Eat Birds

Squirrels are omnivores. They need both plant matter and protein in their diet. Their need for protein is especially high when pregnant, lactating, or during food shortages. 

There are four main reasons why squirrels eat birds:

  1. Birds are a protein source.
  2. There’s an abundance of birds.
  3. Squirrels need more protein during pregnancy and lactation.
  4. There is a food shortage.

1. Birds Are a Protein Source

Why Do Squirrels Eat Meat
Image Source

Squirrels are omnivores and need protein. Birds are a source of animal protein. Dead birds, nestlings, eggs, or weak birds are especially easy to hunt and collect, making them an easy meal.

2. Abundance and Ease

Small dead and injured birds, nestlings, and bird eggs supply squirrels with animal protein with minimal effort.

Squirrels eat whatever’s easiest to forage. While the female and male birds are out foraging for food, a nest of eggs or nestlings is too tempting an opportunity for a hungry squirrel to overlook.

Squirrels are not commonly known for hunting, so they look for easy sources of animal protein that are easy to acquire. Birds are an abundant source of protein for squirrels. Eggs are easy to steal and nestlings are easy to kill.

3. Pregnancy and Lactation Needs

Pregnant and lactating squirrels have a higher need for protein than normal and are more likely to look for easy, meaty meals.   

4. Food Scarcity

Squirrel during Food Scarcity

While squirrels often prefer other foods, such as nuts and seeds, shortages do occur. Birds are often an abundant food source, even when other foods are in low supply. 

Why Do Birds Chase Squirrels?

Birds chase squirrels away to protect their nests, eggs, nestlings, and food supply. Birds of prey chase down squirrels to kill and eat them.

It’s not uncommon to see a hawk or owl going after a squirrel to kill and eat. But even small birds have moments of bravery and chase away squirrels.

Birds chase squirrels for these reasons: 

  • The bird is a bird of prey and is hunting the squirrel. 
  • The bird is chasing a nest-raiding squirrel away from its eggs and chicks. 
  • The bird or birds are chasing the squirrel away from scattered bird food or seed in a bird feeder. 

Should You Feed Squirrels To Protect Birds? 

Feeding squirrels to try to protect birds leads to squirrel population growth. They become dependent on your for food, but when you stop feeding them, they start eating birds again.  

Feeding squirrels to protect birds can backfire in many ways: 

  • It can lead to squirrel population growth.
  • Squirrels lose their natural fear of humans.
  • Squirrels can become more aggressive.
  • It makes squirrels reliant on humans for food.
  • When the human food source is missing, the increased squirrel population can turn back to birds for food.

Supplying squirrels with food can lead to a dramatic increase in the squirrel population. Squirrels breed more when food sources are overly abundant. 

Squirrels fed by humans lose their natural fear of humans. They will see you as a source of food and become aggressive when you don’t feed them. They will show the same aggression and lack of fear to other humans they encounter – including children and neighbors.[6] 

Should You Feed Squirrels To Protect Birds

If you are sick, go away for a holiday, or have run out of food for the squirrels, the increased population of squirrels suffers. These hungry squirrels are therefore more likely to seek birds’ eggs and nestlings as a source of food than before. 

Feeding squirrels can also attract unwanted wildlife that either prey on squirrels (like coyotes) or animals that enjoy squirrel food too (like rats). 

Instead of feeding squirrels, plant oak trees, sweet chestnut trees, and hazel trees to provide squirrels with a habitat and natural food sources. [7] 

How To Stop Squirrels From Eating Bird Feed 

To stop squirrels from raiding a bird feeder and stealing seed, ditch the hanging feeder for a freestanding one. A freestanding bird feeder on a metal pole positioned far from overhanging trees is difficult for squirrels to access.  

Squirrels don’t only eat birds, birds’ eggs, and nestlings. They also eat the bird seed and fruit people put out for wild birds. This causes conflict between birds and squirrels. 

Since squirrels can access hanging bird feeders from trees, one of the best ways to stop squirrels from stealing food from bird feeders is to install a freestanding feeder on a metal pole.

Squirrels find it hard to grip and scale metal poles, preventing them from reaching the food.

Place the feeder far from overhanging trees, so the squirrel can’t jump from a tree to the feeder, and add another deterrent for squirrels – a metal cone that wraps around the pole. [8] 

Related: What Do Squirrels Eat?

FAQs

Do Squirrels Steal Bird Eggs? 

Yes, squirrels are known to raid birds’ nests and steal eggs to eat. They do this for protein and when other food sources are scarce. 

Can Squirrels Eat Birds? 

Yes, squirrels are known to eat birds’ eggs, nestlings, and dead and injured adult birds. 

Do Squirrels Eat Baby Birds?

Yes, squirrels are known to raid birds’ nests and eat defenseless nestlings (baby birds) and birds’ eggs. 

Do Squirrels Eat Owls? 

Squirrels will eat an owl if they find it dead. Squirrels are known to eat roadkill, no matter what kind of animal it is. Since owls are the natural predators of squirrels, you are more likely to spot an owl eating a squirrel than the other way round. 

What Birds Eat Squirrels? 

Birds of prey, like owls and hawks, hunt and eat squirrels. 

Do Squirrels Eat Other Animals?

Yes, squirrels are omnivores and eat other animals like birds, birds’ eggs and nestlings, young rabbits, hares, and mice. Squirrels will also eat carrion – dead meat they find. This can include common roadkill animals like cats, dogs, and deer. 

Do Squirrels Eat Squirrels? 

Yes, Eastern gray and American red squirrels are on record for eating squirrels. A conservation project monitoring red squirrels noted male squirrels killing a female and another male’s  ‘kittens’ (infants) so that she can mate again. The male will sometimes eat the infants. 

What Birds Eat Squirrels? 

Birds of prey, like hawks, falcons, crows, and owls hunt and eat squirrels. 

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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