We know snakes and foxes eat bird eggs, and even some birds do it, like buzzards and hawks – but do squirrels eat bird eggs?
It may come as a surprise that squirrels do eat the occasional bird egg, though it’s not a part of their main diet. What’s more, squirrels may also eat the birds, themselves. They’re supposed to be vegetarian, I know, but a lot of species aren’t.
If you want to find out more about squirrels, their diet, and why they eat bird eggs, keep on reading.
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Do Squirrels Eat Bird Eggs?
The main diet of squirrels consists of fruits, nuts, and veggies. Some of them are omnivores, meaning they can eat both veggies and meat. Rarely, some squirrels are carnivorous, and their diets mainly consist of meat.
However, those are only a few species, and the majority stay on the vegetarian, omnivore side of the diet spectrum.
That said, many species of squirrels eat bird eggs. Not only squirrels but ground squirrels and chipmunk also do it to get some protein into their diet.
The calcium in a bird egg’s shell is highly beneficial for squirrels. They can easily steal eggs, too, due to their high speed and small bodies.
Why Do Squirrels Eat Bird Eggs?
Squirrels feed on bird eggs for a lot of reasons. The thought may seem absurd to you, but the tiny creatures have their reasons for stealing eggs. For starters, eggs have a high content of protein and calcium, thanks to the shell, so they provide a decent food source whenever nuts become scarce.
On top of that, eggs are convenient for squirrels because they come across them a lot. As avid jumpers, squirrels spend most of their time jumping from one tree to another. So, they encounter bird nests without even trying, making eggs an easy food for them to get.
Some circumstances also force squirrels to look for bird eggs. For instance, pregnant female squirrels typically have more dietary needs, making them seek nutrient sources of food like bird eggs.
Additionally, most plants that squirrels feed on lack rare minerals, such as calcium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Their bodies need all the nutrition they could find, and a bird egg provides all those nutritional elements.
Lastly, during colder times of the year, nuts and fruits become scarce. So, squirrels have no other option but to review other food sources, bird eggs included. Bird eggs are found all year round in abundance, so they should be easy to find at any time of the year.
All of that doesn’t mean that bird eggs are a natural part of a squirrel’s diet, though. They’re merely a good source of nutrition that’s conveniently found in a squirrel’s way frequently.
Do Squirrels Eat Baby Birds, Too?
Well, squirrels already feed on the young eggs of birds. They might as well eat the birds after they hatch, right?
It’s right to some extent, but it’s not a usual occurrence. Squirrels will occasionally steal a bird’s nestlings when they have the chance, and there’s a high chance they’ll feed on the baby birds inside.
Squirrels only do that when the mother bird is away. When it’s in the nest protecting its babies, squirrels have no chance to fight it because they’re not fast or strong enough. They’re a stealthy bunch!
You may have always perceived squirrels as the adorable vegetarians that feed on nuts. On the contrary, they can get quite vicious when their hands fall on an active nest they can feed on.
Which Birds Are More Likely to Have Their Eggs Stolen?
Generally, squirrels are more likely to target baby birds and nestlings, and that’s only when their mothers aren’t around. However, there are a lot of other factors that make birds more susceptible to having their eggs eaten.
For starters, the birds that nest above the ground with no shrub to cover them are an open invitation for squirrels and similar creatures. There’s even more risk if they’re nesting in open forest habitats.
In addition to that, birds that build their nests between tree branches, precisely in the tree’s fork, are more likely to have their nests stolen. These are out in the open without any means of protection, and squirrels already jump on trees a lot.
Birds that nest in areas with high squirrel populations are also more at risk, along with birds that nest in areas with no alternative diet sources for squirrels.
Do Squirrels Only Eat Bird Eggs out of Love for Stealing?
A lot of animals love stealing, such as monkeys. I’m sure a lot of us remember visiting the zoo and having a sandwich or two stolen by a monkey that thinks it’s funny!
Similarly, many animals have the same habit, typically targeting birds’ nests that can be easily stolen. Are squirrels the same?
You won’t believe this, but a lot of studies were actually carried out to find out if squirrels have a stealthy nature. As it turns out, squirrels do love to steal. They’ll store more than enough food to survive the cold months, but they’ll still go out and steal cones and nuts from other squirrels.
So, the same goes for bird eggs, except that’s not the only reason they eat them. They feed on eggs because they’re full of protein, but they also love stealing. The best evidence for that is that they don’t get the eggs when the mother birds are around.
When they find a challenge, they don’t bother. If they only did it for the food, they wouldn’t mind a fight.
Species of Squirrels That Are More Likely to Eat Bird Eggs
Some species of squirrels feed on bird eggs frequently, and others don’t bother. Sometimes, it’s because of the squirrel’s nature. However, it can also be because of the habitat and the food availability.
Some squirrels live in places where cones and nuts are scarce, so they have to find alternatives. Here’s a roundup of the species that are more likely to snatch an egg from a bird’s nest.
Red squirrels have small bodies covered by reddish-grey coats. Their most distinctive feature is their creamy white underbellies, and there’s some white around their eyes, as well. Red squirrels don’t have the same bushy, long tail as tree squirrels. Instead, theirs is shorter and less fluffy.
They’re best known for being carnivorous, which means they eat meat as their main diet. They feed on bird eggs frequently, and if they find a baby bird, they’ll eat it too. These squirrels are known for being destructive when it comes to getting food. They spend most of their time foraging for it, and they’re avid nest robbers.
If you’re worried about their whereabouts, they have a wide range, extending from the US, UK, Ireland, and passing through Mongolia, NW China, and Russia.
Flying squirrels have smaller bodies than most species. Their bodies don’t exceed 10 inches long, and that’s including the length of their heads and tails. They’re known for their quick ‘flight,’ thanks to two skin folds placed between their front and rear legs.
They have white underbellies like red squirrels, except their bodies are covered with a soft brown coat. Flying squirrels are native to North and Central America, but some populations live in Northern Europe.
These squirrels mainly feed on vegetarian elements, such as fruits, nuts, veggies, and lots of berries. However, they’re opportunistic eaters, meaning they’ll eat a bird egg when they see one, and they see those a lot because of their jumping habits and high speeds.
They won’t hesitate to eat a baby bird, too, if they find it in the nest without protection.
Gray squirrels have some bold eating habits. They feed on dead birds a lot, but they’ll attack an alive baby bird, too, if they had the chance. Plus, they love raiding nests, so feeding on bird eggs is a usual occurrence for them.
They’re savvy foragers, and they’re known to eat anything they can find in their way. You may find this surprising, but there have been some records of these squirrels eating fellows of the same species.
If they eat their neighbors from the same species, why would they stop at a bird egg?
Gray squirrels have silver-grey coats, and their faces lean on the brown side. They’re mostly seen nibbling on cones and hazelnuts, but they eat meat, as well. Their range extends from the Eastern USA, reaching Northern Canada. There are also some populations in the Western USA.
So, do squirrels eat bird eggs?
Squirrels may seem like the vegetarian, fluffy, adorable fellows that constantly nibble on hazelnuts. However, these buddies can get vicious when it comes to their food — especially the carnivorous of them.
They’ll feed on bird eggs whenever they find them, and they may eat baby birds, too, if they’re left without protection. The good news is, they’re not quick enough to attack adult birds and kill them, so at least the mothers will be safe.