Squirrels like to eat berries and nuts as well as the occasional insect, grub, or plant material like flower bulbs. Squirrels are considered rodents, so they have teeth that continuously grow, which requires gnawing activity to keep them filed down.
The gnawing involved to open and eat nuts is therefore a beneficial and nutritious activity. Understanding how squirrels eat tells us what they like and how they get their nutrients.
Squirrels rely on their sense of smell to locate the food, and then their strong teeth to bite into any outer shells. Squirrels have nimble paws that allow them to hold their food as they eat, or in the case of nuts, turn the food as they gnaw into it. They have adapted the necessary tools that allow them to forage and eat the food nature provides.
Squirrels do not hibernate all winter, so if you see one, it is probably hungry. Squirrels are fun to watch as they dart around and play in the trees, and they can keep your yard free of other pests and insects.
With this guide, you will know how squirrels eat and what to offer on the menu.
How Do Squirrels Eat Nuts
Squirrels have the perfect teeth for opening nuts. In the same way as acorns, their teeth can be used to drill small holes into nuts, giving them leverage to crack shells open.
The technique used may vary slightly depending on the nut. Typically, a squirrel will open a nut by holding it in their front paws, gnawing it on it while turning it at the same time. If a nut is already hollowed out, they will discard it.
How Do Squirrels Open Chestnuts
Squirrels love chestnuts and often store these nuts away later to eat. This means you may not see them eating chestnuts very often.
Squirrels have a compulsive urge to collect chestnuts and you will likely see them burying them in the ground near their home.
If you do see a squirrel eating a chestnut, you will notice they first remove the skin or shell by holding it in their paws and rotating it as they use their teeth to peel away the skin.
Then, using the same turning technique, they use their teeth to bore holes into the nut, to crack it open.
How Do Squirrels Open Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts are one of the easier nuts for squirrels to open. Rather than drilling a hole into them, they tend to split the hazelnut almost perfectly in half.
Nuts that are left behind in this way are a tell-tale sign that a squirrel was there. If there are any holes or gnaw marks, then you likely had dormice eating in the area instead.
By handling the hazelnut firmly in their paws, squirrels can easily crack them open using their teeth and there is no need to bore a hole.
How Do Squirrels Eat Walnuts
Squirrels love walnuts and they eat each of the three types: black, white, and English. The antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts are very good for squirrels.
The strong teeth of a squirrel allow it to bite through tough substances like wood and walnut shells. By creating a small hole for leverage, their teeth can be used to crack open the walnut.
Alternatively, the shell can be dropped from a great height onto the ground. The 8 molars squirrels have, allows them to easily grind up the nut.
How Do Squirrels Eat Acorns
Acorns are a highly nutritious nut from the oak tree. Squirrels are opportunist eaters which means they will eat anything however berries and nuts like acorns are the most common food in their diet.
Most often you can see squirrels collecting acorns to stow away for the winter months, but you may also occasionally see them eating acorns too.
The main reason acorns are stored is to allow them to dry out. This leaches out the tannin in the acorn shell, which is a bitter tasting chemical designed to repel insects and rodents like squirrels.
Stored acorns are dried out, easier to open and tastier treats.
How Do Squirrels Open Acorns
If you are looking to keep food out for squirrels, acorns are a great place to start, since they are a favorite food and easy for squirrels to open. Squirrels will eat both brown and green acorns.
Typically, a squirrel will shake an acorn it comes across to see if any weevils are inside it. If there are weevils inside, a squirrel will typically eat the acorn right away, weevils and all.
To open the acorn, you may see a squirrel drop the nut onto the ground. They also have a split lower jaw that allows them to spread their incisor teeth 2mm to 3mm apart to crack open the acorn.
Their teeth will gnaw a small hole into the acorn shell, then use this to crack open the nut.
How Do Squirrels Eat Pine Cones
Yes, squirrels even eat and store pine cones. Pine cones may not seem like a desirable snack, given their tough exterior, but squirrels have sharp teeth and they do not mind this toughness.
Pine cones are a favorite for squirrels and they will happily gnaw away and munch on them, both the green and brown pine cones. Similar to the way they (or you) would eat corn on the cob, they hold the pine cone, rotate and gnaw away.
How Do Squirrels Eat Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are the one treat you may see squirrels stealing from your bird feeder. They do love these seeds, but they do not have enough nutrients to provide the proper nutrition of a squirrel’s diet.
If you are planning to feed squirrels sunflower seeds, you may also want to leave some other nuts and berries too, so they get all the nutrients they need.
The seed that squirrels seem to love the most is black oil sunflower seeds, and these are not expensive. The only trouble is that after they crack open the shell with their teeth, they eat the seed, and leave the shells for you to clean up.
How Do Squirrels Eat Corn
Squirrels will eat anything, and this includes corn. In fact, many people like to leave corn on the cob out for local squirrel populations. Squirrels love corn and all parts of it are safe for them to eat, including husk, cob, and silk.
However, it is actually better for the squirrels to only feed them certain parts and you can buy corn squirrel logs specifically designed for this.
The corn cob is a perfect treat for squirrels to gnaw on, especially when dried. As for kernels, they do not eat the whole thing.
Instead, they drill into the middle of a kernel with their incisor teeth and gnaw out a small flake of the interior of the kernel. Essentially the kernel is a waste, so a cob is the better food for squirrels.
How Does A Squirrel Eat An Orange
Nuts, berries, and even insects are top picks for squirrel food, but other fruits can also be good too. The same as humans, squirrels love the fleshy, juicy parts of fruits and will do what they need to get rid of any peel or skin.
Oranges are particularly favored by squirrels, allowing them to do a little work before getting a yummy treat. Of course, you can always leave peeled orange segments out for them too.
However, squirrels have a natural desire to work for their food, collecting it and hoarding it, so let them have the orange, peel and all.
Their sharp teeth make easy work of an orange peel, as they rotate the orange in their paws. The peel has a bitter taste that squirrels do not like, so it will be left behind.
Once peeled, squirrels eat the entire orange fruit. Because fruit can go bad once unpeeled, they will eat until they are full, then leave the rest. It can be a challenge to carry an orange away for stowing, so this is not often done.
Helpful Tips To Know How Squirrels Eat
Squirrels are opportunistic feeders so they will eat most things, but berries and nuts are their favorite foods. Since they eat everything, they are not the best at detecting what is good for them, so it helps to know what squirrels eat, how they eat, and what is good for them.
Some helpful tips to remember for how squirrels eat include:
- Squirrels like to store nuts away, so you may not see them eating any snacks you leave out for them
- Squirrels naturally love to gnaw to help keep their teeth healthy, so leave them treats that facilitate this
- Pay attention to what the squirrels in your area are eating and leave their favorite snacks out
Squirrels will eat anything they can get their little paws on, and even more than this, they will store anything. If you are growing certain nuts, then you may not be interested in keeping squirrels around with a nut buffet.
But if you are looking to support local wildlife, it helps to know how squirrels eat and what they like. Squirrels can help keep insects out of your yard and they are fun to watch. With the right squirrel buffet, you can have furry friends for life.