Squirrels are known for their playful nature and insatiable appetite. These small creatures are not particularly fussy eaters. However, like any other animal, there are certain foods that they dislike or avoid. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the diet of squirrels, what they hate to eat, and how you can use this information to your advantage.
Squirrels typically dislike eating safflower seeds, nyjer seeds, white proso millet, spicy foods, citrus fruits, onions, garlic, and acidic or sour foods due to their strong flavors or difficulty in consumption. They are also deterred by certain plants including daffodils, galanthus, lily-of-the-valley, geraniums, fritillary flowers, goldenrod, and bleeding hearts. However, a hungry squirrel may still eat these if other food sources are scarce.
Squirrels and Their Diet
Squirrels are opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat anything that provides them with the nutrition they need. They are omnivorous, enjoying a diet that includes fruits, nuts, seeds, and insects. However, their exact diet can vary depending on the species and the region they inhabit. For instance, Eastern Gray Squirrels favor buds, fruits, and nuts, especially in oak and hickory forests, while Red squirrels prefer spruce and pine seeds, berries, and bulbs.
Despite their diverse diet, squirrels are known to avoid certain foods. Let’s take a closer look at what these are.
Foods Squirrels Dislike
From seeds to certain types of fruits and vegetables, here are some foods that squirrels typically avoid:
- Safflower seeds: Known for their bitter taste, safflower seeds are often left untouched by squirrels.
- Nyjer seeds (thistle): These small seeds are difficult for squirrels to eat and are more attractive to birds like finches and doves.
- White proso millet: This grain is favored by ground-feeding birds but is usually ignored by squirrels.
- Spicy foods: Squirrels dislike foods that contain hot peppers or capsaicin, a compound that gives peppers their heat.
- Citrus fruits, onions, and garlic: These foods are generally unappetizing to squirrels due to their strong flavors.
- Acidic or sour foods: Foods that are too spicy, acidic, or sour are typically avoided by squirrels.
Plants That Deter Squirrels
In addition to specific foods, squirrels are also deterred by certain plants. These include daffodils, galanthus, lily-of-the-valley, geraniums, fritillary flowers, goldenrod, and bleeding hearts. Planting these in your garden can help keep squirrels at bay.
How Squirrels React to Foods They Dislike
When squirrels come across foods they dislike, they tend to ignore them and move on in search of more preferable options. Their food preferences can change over time and they may decide they dislike a food they previously enjoyed.
Foods That Are Harmful to Squirrels
While we’re on the topic of foods squirrels dislike, it’s important to note that there are certain foods that can be harmful or even toxic to squirrels. These include avocado skin and pits, fruit pits and seeds, junk food, cashews and sunflower seeds, dried corn, raw pine nuts, artificial sweeteners, breakfast cereals, and certain wild mushrooms, sago palm, cardboard palm, and cycad palms.
Discouraging Squirrels Using Foods They Dislike
Homeowners can use the knowledge of what squirrels dislike to their advantage. By using deterrents such as apple cider vinegar spray, hot pepper plants and cayenne pepper, garlic sprays, peppermint oil, white vinegar, predator urine, or by planting squirrel-proof flowers, you can effectively keep squirrels out of your garden.
Remember, no single method is foolproof, and combining two or more strategies can be more effective in discouraging squirrels from your property.
The Role of Taste and Smell in Squirrels’ Food Preferences
Squirrels have a highly developed sense of smell and taste, which they use to locate food sources and avoid predators. They can sniff out nuts from under a blanket of leaves or snow, and their taste buds help them determine what foods to consume and which ones to avoid.
While squirrels are not particularly picky eaters, there are certain foods and plants they tend to avoid. Understanding these preferences can help homeowners protect their gardens and bird feeders from these agile creatures. However, remember that a hungry squirrel may still eat foods and plants they typically avoid if other food sources are scarce.
Frequently Asked Questions
What other seeds can I use to feed birds that squirrels won’t eat?
Besides safflower seeds, nyjer seeds, and white proso millet, you can also use canary seed and rapeseed. These seeds are not favored by squirrels but are attractive to many bird species.
Can squirrels eat spicy foods?
Squirrels can eat spicy foods, but they generally avoid them due to the heat from capsaicin, the compound that makes peppers hot. However, it’s important to note that feeding squirrels spicy foods intentionally can be harmful to them.
Are squirrels deterred by all types of flowers?
No, squirrels are not deterred by all types of flowers. They typically avoid flowers like daffodils, galanthus, lily-of-the-valley, geraniums, fritillary flowers, goldenrod, and bleeding hearts, but they may eat other flowers if food sources are scarce.
What happens if a squirrel eats a food that it dislikes?
If a squirrel eats a food that it dislikes, it will typically spit it out and move on to find something else. However, if the food is harmful or toxic, the squirrel could become sick.
How can I discourage squirrels from eating my bird feed?
To discourage squirrels from eating your bird feed, you can use a squirrel-proof bird feeder, add foods that squirrels dislike, such as safflower seeds, to your bird feed, or use deterrents like hot pepper flakes. However, remember that no single method is foolproof.