Although predominantly herbivorous, the squirrel’s diet varies among species and common foods include fruits, nuts, insects, seeds, roots, dried corn, fungi, and mushroom. When food is scarce however, they may also eat eggs, young birds, and smaller mammals. Squirrels have been caught in the act severally, of killing rats, mice and birds.
Squirrels commonly store food in holes or buried in the ground for the winter, when food is scarce; and sometimes, in early spring, those buried nuts begin to sprout and the furry mammal is forced to find other sources of food. They would essentially eat what is available at the time and smaller rodents are not exempted. Neither are small birds. They would sometimes kill and eat big birds too.
Predation on birds, mice and rats, is a seemingly unlikely trait of the cute and friendly squirrel, making it hard for many people to believe. Squirrels are very trusting animals and can even eat out of a person’s hand, unlike most wild animal species. This may give the impression at first glance, that they would not hurt a fly.
Squirrels go as far as raiding a bird’s nests for food. In their attack on any nest, eggs and tiny birds found are meals well served. Nesting birds under the attack of a squirrel often abandon their nests to flee, leaving their eggs and chicks at the mercy of the squirrel. This is because gray squirrels in particular are natural nest raiders and would also kill the mother bird.
The gray squirrel is known to kill and eat other gray squirrels as well. And recent scientific studies showed animal matter in the bellies of about 75% of squirrels examined.
Squirrels also pick and eat debris from the animal carcass left by other hunters. Dead mice are not left out and so are insects of various kinds.
Being very versatile feeders, squirrels in urban areas have been known to eat bread scraps, meat, and leftover meals from dumpsters.
Flying squirrels are omnivores. They tend to eat anything that is available within their reach. Their major foods include nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, mushroom, eggs, carrion, young mice, vegetables, small snails, spiders, buds, and berries.
Flying squirrels mostly live in trees and they often inhabit woodpeckers’ holes, nest boxes, snags, abandoned nests of birds and other squirrels. Some of them even den in houses and barns. They can glide easily from one tree to another while foraging. They are adapted to living in forests and woodlands at any favourable location world over.
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