What Squirrels Love to Eat
A look at what you can and shouldn’t feed squirrels
By Daniel Woodley at DIY Gardening
Some gardeners love squirrels and enjoy seeing them in their garden; a few even go a step further and build nests and food stations for them, often complete with hidden cameras to capture close-up footage and photos.
Others detest squirrels, and I’ve heard a few refer to them as “rats with bushy tails”. If you’ve ever left bird food out in the garden, you’ll know how crafty squirrels can be; there isn’t a bird feeder in existence that can keep out a determined and hungry squirrel!
On this page, I’ll reveal:
- What squirrels eat – their natural diet.
- Which nuts and seeds they eat.
- My favourite “all in one” commercial product.
- The best squirrel feeding station.
- Food that birds eat but squirrels ignore (handy if you want to feed birds without attracting squirrels).
- Food that you shouldn’t feed squirrels.
I hope you enjoy my article.
What Squirrels Eat – Their Natural Diet
Squirrels natural diet isn’t strict as they will eat hundreds of different foodstuffs and have been known to consume some very unusual items when other sources of food are scarce.
In the wild, squirrels mostly eat fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, grains, root vegetables and mushrooms. These animals are foragers so happily dig around in the soil and leaves for foods that have fallen from trees and bushes.
To the annoyance of many gardeners, they also consume soft bark, tender plant stalks, some leaves and even bulbs:
While many of us may think of squirrels as herbivores, they are actually omnivores, meaning they eat foods derived from both plants and animals. For example, squirrels have been known to eat bird eggs, insects and even small hatchlings, although this is usually a result of necessity than preference.
In more urbanised areas, squirrels will go through bins and waste looking for anything edible, including milk products and other highly processed foods such as sugary cereals and snacks. Squirrels also eat dried cat and dog food and even wet food if they’re desperate and have limited choices.
Fruit and Veg
Squirrels eat a wide range of fruits and dozens of different types of berries.
These foodstuffs contain a high percentage of natural sugar which is converted into energy, something that squirrels need a lot of, relative to their size.
Apple is one of their favourite fruits; pears are a close second while they’ll also happily munch on kiwis, nectarines and almost all berries, including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.
It’s perfectly fine to leave fruits out for squirrels, but you should ideally mix it with other foods for variety, and we recommend shredding hard foods, otherwise, the squirrels may bury them in the garden.
Squirrels also have a fondness of these common vegetables:
- Green beans.
- Bean sprouts.
Nuts That Squirrels Eat
Squirrels eat a wide variety of nuts, and their preferences are:
- Peanuts (technically a legume).
- Pine nuts.
Here are three great tips for you:
1) Don’t overdo it with the peanuts. Squirrels love eating peanuts, but too many isn’t a good thing.
2) Avoid salted, sweetened or processed nuts; these have been made for humans, not squirrels, and too much salt is bad for squirrels.
3) If possible, leave the shell on the nut as squirrels sharpen their teeth by cutting the shell off.
Seeds That Squirrels Eat
Squirrels love eating black and striped sunflower seeds, and you’ll find them in many squirrel food blends; in fact, they’ve been in every blend I’ve ever purchased.
Squirrels will also consume poppy seeds and pumpkin seeds which can be found in most stores; just avoid salted or sweetened varieties.
My Favourite Squirrel Food Blend
I’ve done a ton of research into what squirrels eat and commercial products advertised as “squirrel food”.
If I’m honest with you, there are many rubbish products out there that contain an excessive amount of grass seeds, oats and wheat.
One product that stood out above the rest was the one shown below, which contains a good mix of monkey nuts, peanuts without the shell, striped sunflower seeds, locust beans and whole maize, along with smaller amounts of oats and wheat.
The reviews of this squirrel feed are excellent as of June 2021, with 85% of 1035 reviewers rating this product 4 or 5-stars. I sifted through the negative reviews, and most were related to the packaging and the fact it sometimes arrived damaged.
Go check it out:
The Best Squirrel Feeding Station
Squirrel feeding stations are a great way to attract these animals to your garden, and you can get some great photos as the squirrels usually sit on the ledge while they eat.
Here’s what you should look out for buying a squirrel feeder:
- It must have a sloping roof so rainwater doesn’t get into the station where it could rot the food.
- It should be sturdy enough as squirrels are extremely destructive.
- As squirrels can chew through any material, including metal, I don’t think you should spend too much on a feeding station and assume you’ll need a new one next year.
- The lid should be easy enough for the squirrels to lift up; otherwise, they will chew through the walls or floor.
- One final tip: Place a wedge between the roof lid and the wall so the squirrels can see how to access the food; otherwise, they may start chewing! This tip applies to all squirrel feeders.
Below is my recommendation based on price, sturdiness and the number of positive reviews on Amazon (currently 1325 reviews, of which 86% gave this product a 4 or 5-star rating).
Bird Seed That Squirrels Won’t Eat
If you want to attract birds to your garden, you’ll need to leave out plenty of seed regularly, but it won’t be long until squirrels realise there’s an all-you-can-eat daily buffet on offer.
We’ve already published a guide to squirrel-proof bird feeders, but there are two seeds that squirrels either won’t eat at all or prefer not to eat:
Nyjer seeds – not all birds will eat nyjer seeds, but finches love them, and doves and sparrows enjoy them too. As for squirrels, I’ve never heard of squirrels eating nyjer seeds; they seem avoid them all year round.
Safflower seeds – squirrels rarely eat safflower seeds and often leave them if there’s plenty of other foodstuffs on offer. Finches, doves and jays will eat safflower seeds but it can take a while for them to get started, especially if there’s an abundance of other food around.
Food That’s Bad or Dangerous For Squirrels
In the wild, squirrels have learnt to avoid poisonous foods, but processed foods created for humans can cause them problems as they’re tasty and loaded with sweeteners, sugars or salt.
It’s best to avoid giving squirrels biscuits, processed nuts (like salted peanuts), cereals and bars with mixed seeds/nuts etc. While these are unlikely to kill a squirrel, the excess salt or processed, refined sugar isn’t something they normally eat.
Don’t Hand-Feed Squirrels – Try This Instead
Squirrels can be taught to eat from a human’s hand, but these animals need a fear of humans to survive and shouldn’t be domesticated. Also, if the squirrels get used to eating from you, they will likely come closer to other humans, and I would hate to think about how much damage a startled squirrel could do inside a home.
Many of us have a natural tendency to get closer to nature when we really shouldn’t; an alternative is to set up a camera, either inside a squirrel nest or adjacent to a feeding station. You can can then watch these animals on your TV and perhaps even get some lovely photos too.
More From Daniel Woodley:
I hope you enjoyed my guide to what squirrels eat which I’ve published here at DIY Gardening and was last updated on the 20th of June, 2021.
Discover more helpful hints and tips from Hannah and me over at the blog.
I’m a keen amateur gardener who also manages a large residential landscape in addition to my own mid-size garden.
I’ve just started growing vegetables and fruits which compliment my mature herbaceous border and container garden.