Do you feed the squirrels from your backyard? If so, then you’re probably wondering “how much do squirrels eat?” This was my thought this morning, especially since I always see them at the squirrel feeder.
The short answer is that on average squirrels will eat about one pound of food per week. Squirrels like to eat pretty much anything, but they have a natural appetite for many native fruits, nuts, tree bark, plants, flowers, veggies, fungi, and some insects to their habitat.
Some people think that squirrels only eat nuts, but their dining experience is extensive. They love eating anything they can get their little paws on and this includes human foods that may or may not be good for them.
Related: Can Squirrels Eat Apples?
How Much Do Squirrels Eat A Day?
If you feed the squirrels, then it’s easy to believe that they are always eating. While it is true that they require a lot of food to survive, they are always busy foraging and hoarding food for the winter. However, not all squirrels remember where they bury their nuts. (we’ll talk more about this later)
It’s believed that squirrels can bury thousands of nuts that can be retrieved later when there is a shortage in the food supply. They can spread their nut caches over an area that is larger than two square miles.
Squirrels food will and the amount of food they eat and store for later, will depend on their native habitat. That’s where we’re going to take a look at look at where squirrels live because this will play a huge part in what squirrels eat and how often they eat.
A Look At The Squirrel Diet and Other Squirrel Facts
Not every squirrel is the same, yes they all love to eat. But their diet habits vary from the types of foods they love to eat as well as their habits of storing food for the winter. That’s why we’re going to take a look at the 5 types of squirrels and their eating habits.
How Much Do Grey Squirrels Eat?
Eastern Gray squirrels are mainly herbivores and love eating berries, fungi, buds, hazelnuts, acorns, and even bark. When the natural plant food source is scarce, they will eat smaller rodents, bird eggs, insects, and nestlings.
An adult will weight between 0.88 – 1.3lbs, while a newborn weighs 13-18 grams and entirely hairless and pink.
These little guys will eat almost anything they can get their paws on. They are known to store huge quantities of food for the future. Sometimes, they can’t remember where they store their food, so they use landmarks to help them remember to retrieve them.
They have a great sense of smell that helps them find their caches of food. These are the only squirrels that do not hibernate during the winter. Although, they are not as active in the cold weather and spend more time sleeping.
You’ll find them eating and foraging for food during the afternoon and dawn. They are capable of feeding themselves at any season, even during the winter.
How Much Do Red Squirrels Eat?
The American Red Squirrel (Amiasciurus Hudsonicus) is extremely common in North
America and they are primarily granivorous eaters. However, they are also opportunistic omnivores. An adult can weigh between 12-14 ounces. The red squirrels have many enemies, including the grey squirrels, therefore, they should be considered quite aggressive.
They love living in solitary and will go after larger prey if they infringe on their territory. During the summer months, their hair is a rust-colored look with a white underbelly.
The females can have two litters per year. The breeding season starts in March until May and then they can reproduce again in July until September.
The gestation period lasts for about 40 days, and their litter contains anywhere from three to six baby squirrels.
These opportunistic feeders will feed upon small birds, insects, bones and deer antlers (which provide them a great source of calcium). Since they live in the forest, they will feed on a variety of shoots, bulbs, buds, fruit, fungi, and berries, and flowers. (depending on the season)
They primarily hoard their food in the late summer through autumn. The red squirrels eat whenever food is plentiful, but find it difficult to find food during the summer months. During the summer the spring shoots and buds are gone. In the autumn, seeds and berries will be a huge part of their diet.
How Much Do Fox Squirrels Eat?
The Fox Squirrel also known as (Sciurus niger) has three distinct color patterns. They have a colorful coat that is gray on top with a yellow underside. In the west, they range from a gray coat with a rust color underside. In the South, they are known to be black and brown with a white stripe on their face, and a white tip on the tail.
They love eating acorns, hickory, beach, mulberry, Hawthorne seeds, and walnuts. Like all other types of squirrels, will store nuts to eat in the winter. This critter will locate their stashed nuts by using its keen sense of smell.
These opportunistic feeders rely on bird feeders and squirrel feeders during the winter. Most of the acorns they bury are never found and will sprout to become trees. They spend most of their day eating, gathering and storing food.
How Much Do Flying Squirrels Eat?
Flying squirrels are also known as (Glaucomys sabrinus) are small tree squirrels that
actually glide, instead of flying. They stretch out the folds of skin between their front and hind legs to form a parachute and glide from branch to branch.
These squirrels are not aggressive and pose no real threat to humans, but they do have sharp teeth. Only two variations of the flying squirrel known as the Northern and Southern flying squirrels can be found in North America.
These furry critters have a gray-brown. The Northern species have a gray base while the Southern species has a white belly.
These opportunistic feeders are constantly eating a variety of insects, fruits, seeds, and nuts. In captivity, they do well with a varied diet that includes pumpkin seeds, and pine nuts.
They spend most of their day foraging and storing food for the winter.
How Long Can A Squirrel Survive Without Food and Water?
As I mentioned above, these bushy-tailed critters consume about a pound of food per week. Most of them will drink about 2-3 tablespoons of water per day.
According to research, an adult squirrel will die within 24 hours without food and water.
How Much Do Baby Squirrels Eat?
Baby squirrels diets will vary depending on the size and condition of the animal. Baby squirrels are very high maintenance and can not survive without food for more than 2-3 hours.
This is why it’s so important to make sure that you contact a wildlife rescue center where you live, to ensure that they get the proper care they require.
Of course, many people have nurtured a baby squirrel, that the mama lost back to health. Just know that you’re going to need to understand how to care for a baby squirrel to ensure you feed them the right foods.
What Do Squirrels Eat From Trees?
Both grey and fox squirrels tend to eat foods that are available in and near trees. Their tree diet consists of leaves, tree buds, berries, seeds, nuts, and twigs.
However, both of them are not vegetarians and will consume other things such as eggs, insects and small prey.
What Do Squirrels Eat In The Winter?
Most squirrels will store enough food during the warm weather to help them survive during the winter months. Their caching (squirreling food away) behavior allows them to hide their food for later retrieval, kind of like humans do with stocking our cupboards with food.
However, if you love feeding them this is the perfect time to feed them. Their natural food supply is limited and there’s nothing wrong with helping them find food to eat in the winter.
Although most of them will be hibernating, those that aren’t will not come out as often in the cold. However, I’ve personally seen some gray squirrels at my bird feeder.
Tips for Feeding Squirrels
Now that you understand the different types of squirrels and the types of foods they like to eat, it’s important to know that every species is different. When deciding the diet for any squirrel, including one in captivity, it’s important fully understand the types of food its body is adapted to.
Most urban squirrels are highly opportunistic feeders and will eat anything they can find such as ice cream, cake, candy bars and etc. These human foods are NOT good for us, they are definitely not good for squirrels.
If you are feeding wildlife in your backyard, then make sure that you avoid overfeeding them. It’s okay to feed them, but you need to allow them to find their own food in nature. This is the best way to ensure that they get all the nutrients that their bodies need.
Feed Them The Most Healthy Foods First
The best way to get your backyard squirrels to eat healthy foods is to offer them a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables. You can read this post to find out what squirrels eat.
It’s okay to feed them treats like nuts, peanuts, and seeds as long as it is only done so in small amounts.
All Food and Water Must Be Fresh
Squirrels love to drink water and need to in order to survive. According to research, some will drink about 2-3 tablespoons on a daily basis. They will usually drink more during the hot weather, lactation, and pregnancy so make sure that you provide them with fresh water.
If they cannot get fresh water from their natural environment, make sure that you help them out.
Foods That Are Bad For Squirrels
Squirrels like to eat anything that they can get their hands on. In fact, there’s not a lot that they won’t eat. However, just like you and I, they need to consume foods that will provide them with the nutrients that help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If you are feeding them make sure that you are NOT feeding them foods they shouldn’t eat.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with feeding squirrels, as long as you don’t overdo it. Unlike a bird feeder where you can always have full, a squirrel needs to be able to forage for food. Otherwise, they will become too dependent on people.
We prefer to feed them when food is scarce. Although some of them have taken to eating from our bird feeders when they can’t find any at their own feeder.
References and Further Reading
Wonderopolis – What Do Animals Squirrel Away for The Winter
Animal Spot – What Is An Eastern Gray Squirrel
Squirrel Board – How Much Water
About Squirrels – Learn About Nature – About Red Squirrels
Animal Diversity Web – Tamisciurus Hudsonicus Red Squirrel