In this brief guide, we’ll address the query: “Do squirrels eat birds?” Also, we’ll explore what the diet of squirrels consists of, where squirrels are distributed, and what the role of squirrels is in the environment.
Do squirrels eat birds?
Yes, there have been recorded instances in which squirrels have eaten birds. However, this is not a predatory behavior, but rather an opportunistic one.
Birds are not a staple food in a squirrel’s diet, but when they do come upon a defenseless bird, squirrels will loot nutrients such as animal protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals from bird flesh.
Squirrels may eat birds that are infirm, injured, newly hatched, in fledgling stages, or otherwise unable to escape. They’ll not only eat birds, but if the opportunity presents itself, they will also scavenge unguarded eggs in nests, and remain on the ground.
This behavior is not exclusive to squirrels and has been documented in other species such as deer, and even domesticated animals such as pigs, cows, chickens, ducks, and others.
What is in a squirrel’s diet?
Squirrels have a varied diet that will often depend on their environment and the resources they can easily dispose of.
For example, a squirrel in an urban area may be more accustomed to eating trash and other leftovers from waste centers and landfills, whereas those in more suburban and rural areas will consume just about anything they find to be edible.
Commonly, this alludes to fruits, tree nuts, fungi, leafy greens, seeds, and on occasion, carrion, insects, and other sources of animal protein.
As mammals, their early nutritional stages rely on breastmilk, which varies in composition depending on their stage. Newly-born squirrels will feed on colostrum, and as they age, the composition of their mother’s milk will change to better suit their growing digestive system.
Once they’re two and a half months old, young squirrels can set out and begin to forage for their food, which may include the above-listed components.
In urban areas, squirrels have adapted to eating leftovers and other waste such as fast food, junk food, and of course whatever food they can forage from green spaces such as fruiting trees in parks and recreational areas.
Where are squirrels distributed?
Squirrels have a nigh-cosmopolitan distribution and can be found in regions with tall trees, warm climates, and even in northern latitudes.
Depending on the species, squirrels may be more akin to urban environments, or natural verdant habitats.
For example, red squirrels thrive in rural areas and natural habitats, whereas grey squirrels have seemingly co-evolved to thrive in urban areas, where they feed off of discarded food, and other scraps.
Generalizing, squirrels live on every continent save for Australia (where their squirrels are marsupials, not rodents) and Antarctica. Interestingly, squirrels were introduced to the Australian continent and were on the verge of becoming a pest.
However, they were successfully extinguished before they could be calamitous to other local species.
What is the role of squirrels in the environment?
Squirrels may have different roles in the environment, depending on what their habitat is.
In forest and suburban areas, they constitute an important link in food chains, as they can be an important part of the diets of other predators in higher tiers.
Also, as they consume and stash fruits, they play an important part in seed-hauling, helping plant species distribute their seeds and ensuring their survival.
Squirrels often shape the plant composition of certain niches, by favoring the distribution of woody species throughout large extensions of terrain.
Curiously, squirrels have a habit of stashing food in the ground. This stirring of topsoil favors the distribution and growth of species of fungi such as truffles and other species with fruiting bodies.
Many fungi have saprophytic roles in the environment, which means that they help break down decaying organic matter into baser components that can nourish the forest floor. As squirrels play an important role in helping these fungi, their importance cannot be understated.
In urban areas, by consuming leftovers and other scraps, they reduce the likelihood of infestation by other animals such as cockroaches, rats, and scavenging types that may transmit disease.
However, squirrels are sources of potentially zoonotic diseases, which is why wild squirrels should not be kept as pets, and pets such as dogs, cats, birds, and rodents should not come into contact with them or anything they touch or feed on.
Luckily, there are only about a handful of diseases squirrels can transmit to humans, but as a precaution, we advise our readers to merely observe squirrels, and enjoy the benefits they bestow.
In this brief guide, we have addressed the query: “Do squirrels eat birds?” Also, we have explored what the diet of squirrels consists of, where squirrels are distributed, and what the role of squirrels is in the environment.