02 September 2009

Squirrel eating a bird



I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by the image above (source unknown, but it has been circulating on the 'net since at least 2005). Squirrels are, after all, rodents and therefore at least potentially omnivorous. The photo depicts a wintertime event, when opportunistic carnivorous behavior might be predicted. Googling the phrase yields only 13 hits, typically to blogs where writers express their surprise and sometimes dismay/disgust.

The most extreme example of carnivory I encountered was a BBC report of a pack of squirrels attacking, killing, and eating a stray dog.

On a lighter note, and of perhaps more interest is the etymology of the word "squirrel" - "via Anglo-Norman esquirel from the Old French escurel… The word itself comes from the Greek word skiouros, which means shadow-tailed, because they use their tail to shade their whole body."

Update: reposted from last year because of continuing activity on the comments thread. I Googled the phrase again and this time got 36 hits.

Update Feb 2011:  the reports continue to accumulate in the comments for this post, and a Google search of the phrase now yields over 2,000 hits (though some re bird egg, or bird seed).

Update June 2012:  a report (at comment #51) of a squirrel eating a baby rabbit.

81 comments:

  1. I am sure he just happened on the unconscious bird and was giving mouth to mouth life saving.
    (music from Peter and the Wolf in the background...)

    ReplyDelete
  2. A lot of people are not aware that chickens eat meat, either. I was shocked the first time I saw it. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. There's a squirrel eating a bird outside my window right now (hence the googling and coming upon this site), so it does happen occasionally it seems.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For the second time .. a finch makes her nest in my hanging planter and one day the nest was on the ground i assumed the bird thru it down. A few months later she built another nest ..this time there were eggs and then the baby birds hatched..the mother bird would feed them continuously and they were only a week old. i came home yesterday after being gone a few hrs. and I found the nest on the ground and feathers all over and blood on the concrete. Damn it now I know it was squirrels! I hate them! the babies were newborn and innocent! I am so saddened!!!!!!

      Delete
    2. I suspect this happens more often than most of us realize. It takes post comments like these to help us appreciate the frequency. Thanks.

      Delete
    3. We just had a squirrel eat a bird on our deck. It was horrifying to watch. I went out to stop him and he grabbed his prey and took off with it into the trees. I've been a lifetime birder and NEVER before seen this happen. It was an opportunistic attack -- the poor bird had flown into the sliding glass doors (despite the bird protective stickers we have on the glass doors) and just been killed, which is the first time we've had this happen in the 2 years we've lived here. The squirrel was on the deck eating birdseed spillage and immediately went sniffing around and found the dead bird before we could do anything, and he snatched it up and started eating it.

      Delete
    4. Since the bird was dead, I'm wondering why you tried to stop the squirrel from eating it. For the sake of children watching perhaps, or just an innate reflex against carnivorous behavior?

      Delete
    5. Re: September 29, 2013, squirrel eating bird on deck

      1) This happened in metro-Atlanta, Georgia

      2) I think I tried to stop the behavior since it was such a shock -- something I'd never encountered before. I've seen hawks kill and eat their prey in my backyard before but nothing like this.

      Delete
  4. A bird was knocked out after flying into our window this morning. A squirrel ran up on our deck and grabbed the bird by the head and took it into the woods. I was shocked, I had no idea squirrels are carnivorous.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I totally just witnessed this event happen with my very own eyes with a friend...Thus looking this up on google.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just Googled "squirrel eating a bird" without the quotation marks. 254,000 hits, and TYWKIWDBI is #1. (With quotation marks, just 496 hits, but still #1).

    I guess this will be the de facto "go to" spot for people who see squirrels eating birds. Please feel free to list your observations, location, type of bird, etc.

    When you're dont, just go to the main blog and search for "severed feet." We're also an expert on that...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Obviously, that should have been "When you're done", not "When you're dont." Blogspot doesn't allow editing of comments.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I had a dead bird (cat induced) in a bag of birdsead scrap last night .. This morning the bird is gone, just a few feathers left behind.

    I am on a second floor with a deck .. plenty of sqirrels come up here so I was wondering ,,, could it be?

    PS my cat was inside

    ReplyDelete
  9. And the cases continue to accumulate...

    ReplyDelete
  10. i just heard a commotion outside and heard my hubby yelling "cut that out" and "git" ... he came in and said he had just seen a squirrel get a baby bird out of a nest and take it on our roof eating it .... hence, i googled and ........

    ReplyDelete
  11. That's how everyone ends up here - via Google. Apparently TYWKIWDBI is the world's authority on squirrels eating birds. I can go to my grave happy at having accomplished something...

    ReplyDelete
  12. There is a squirrel ripping a bird to shreds outside my office window, guts and feathers are falling from the tree. Hence me searching the net and finding this site! Wow, i took a few pics with my cell phone, hopefully they turn out with enough quality to post later! i am amazed, his cheeks are stuffed with flesh. Also, its late summer! no snow and lots of other food around!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marja in DC-April 4, 2012-I just saw a squirrel running into bushes straight down from the tree; I had been feeding a lot of peanuts to those 2 squirrels, so they could not have been very hungry; I feed birds too, but
      this is the end of feeding squirrels-NO MORE! (reason I found this site)

      Delete
  13. @Anon - if your pix turn out well and you store them at a public site, feel free to post the link here.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Not all rodents are omnivorous, there are a number of fully-herbivorous rodents. Capybaras are one, so are beavers, guineapigs, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  15. @anonymous - you are correct. Post modified.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I saw a squirrel scampering up a
    tree in my backyard with a small
    lizard in his mouth. I mentioned
    this to my daughter. She frequents this particular blog, which she often sends to me. At least I now know squirrels do occasionally eat
    meat too. I live in a wooded area
    in which my backyard is mostly trees. We feed the squirrels corn, not meat, but there are hundreds of
    squirrels here, living in trees. I'll grab my camera if I ever catch
    a meat~eating~squirrel munching on a bird. {We have many Hawks that are always hovering around for a bird or squirrel for lunch. Marilyne

    ReplyDelete
  17. Imagine my surprise when I saw a squirrel pick up the little dead sparrow and carry it up the tree. There he sat on a branch and literally pulled that poor bird apart! I was horrified! This happened outside my office window. Usually the birds and squirrels are fed by a girl in our office. She had been out for a few days and they were not fed. I wonder if this is why he went after the bird. A few months ago a cardinal was found on the ground and none of the squirrels tried to eat it but they were also fed quite liberally.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Re: Previous comment:

    This took place in the northeast corner of Connecticut

    ReplyDelete
  19. I was outside when a squirrel got into the birdhouse (full of little birds) and started pulling one apart, eating it. It seemed the more the bird became dismembered and put up less of a fight, the more the squirrel became disinterested. This was about 4 days ago and I've found 2 more partially dismembered birds in the yard since. It's still plenty warm enough here in FL that plants are still blooming, my garden is full of veggies, my neighbor's chicken feed is spread all around his yard, my front oak tree is bursting with acorns..... there is certainly not a food shortage around here. Very bizarre. I've never seen or heard anything like this before.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Just saw a squirrel pick up and run away with a bird that had been lying dead for several hours. He proceeded up the tree with it and began ripping it apart. Apparently they'll eat carrion, too. And this was with a plentiful food supply!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yeah! Us too! We had a sick bird at the bird feeder. We had been discussing how to handle him. Then a squirrel took care of him for us. He took him up in a tree and gobbled him up while feathers and fluff drifted to the ground. Creepy. We are so glad we don't have to face this alone. It is 72 degrees in April, and he looks pretty fat to us. I guess we'll be locking the windows at night, as we have small children sleeping in here.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Just last night I saw a squirrel grab something off my patio - it was a sparrow that must have hit the sliding glass door and been stunned. The squirrel carried the bird in its mouth for about 12 feet and then stood up and held it like a peanut starting eating it. It looked just like the photo posted here but without snow. I feed the birds and squirrels daily and there is plenty of natural food available as well. I am now wondering if this is why there seems to be fewer birds in my yard this year.

    ReplyDelete
  23. A bird crashed into a window at our house today; I was out of the room but the kids saw it. When I returned, they told me, and we went to look at it through the window. It was lying still, presumably dead. Right then, a squirrel ran up to the bird, and began chewing on its neck. We were pretty shocked - then the squirrel quickly dragged the bird away.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Just this morning half of an eaten chick dropped right in front of me and the dog from the tree in my backyard. Very, um, fresh to be sure. We have several generation of squirrels living in our neighborhood and feed them specifically so no surprise (just strange for it to happen right in front of you).

    ReplyDelete
  25. Maybe it was a warning to you. Perhaps they aren't happy with your choice of foods for them...

    ReplyDelete
  26. Injured robin disappeared out of my backyard sometime between 10 AM and 1PM. All that's left is a trail of feathers. Had to be a squirrel, they're the only animals out right now. Googled to see if squirrels ate birds and this came up. Guess so. Thought it would be more likely in the dead of winter, but it's a lovely warm, fall day. Hmmmm.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thank you, anon - and all the others - for what is now a series of I think 15 different reports of squirrels eating birds.

    I would find it interesting if those who post reports in the future would also include info on the state or country of the incident, so we can garner some idea of how widespread this phenomenon is.

    Thanks again to all...

    ReplyDelete
  28. My Co-Worker and I have a feeder outside our office window, which she sits right next to. Just a few minutes ago she shouted, "There's a squirrel outside eating a bird!!" I ran to the window, and she was correct. A very plump fox squirrel was sitting in the bush next to the feeder, eating the head off a chickadee. No snow, we feed them well everyday! Stunned, we googled and found this blog. The tally is now 16!

    ReplyDelete
  29. My husband and 3 others watched a squirrel eat a dead bird yesterday. They couldn't believe what they were seeing and a few minutes later, the squirrel was back on the same spot chowing down another! They tried to get some pictures. I thought they were probably long dead, dried up carcasses and it was satisfying a need for calcium and protein, but after reading the posts here, it's clear that they'll eat them "freshly dead." This was in Shawnee, KS on a sunny 70 degree day.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I live in Seattle and for the first time ever saw a squirrel with a dead bird it its mouth. This happened December 28, 2010. I saw the squirrel scurry on a telephone wire with what looked like a robbin in its mouth, scooting high into an evergreen tree to eat the bird. I googled "do squirrels ever eat birds?" and came up with this site.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I just observed a squirrel eating a bird ( female house finch ) on February 15th 2011 in Chicago a week after a big blizzard and below freezing temperatures. It is currently much warmer than it has been and there is plenty of bird and squirrel food in my yard.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Amesbury, MA Feb. 25, 2011
    Minor Snow Storm currently coming through. Birds and squirrels very well fed daily. We think it was a goldfinch. He was just sitting in tree munching away without a care in the world! Bizarre! #17

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thank you, anons, for the reports!

    stan

    ReplyDelete
  34. wow! so many comments! Like many others i googled squirrels eating birds because i just saw it outside my window and was horrified! I thought they only ate nuts. It is end of march and the snow has almost melted so there is plenty of food out there! i wonder why the bird? Btw i live in minnesota.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I ended up here (but I "Binged" instead of "Googled") because today I saw a squirrel grab a sparrow at our feeder and run off with it in it's mouth. Stunning! Alexandria, NH

    ReplyDelete
  36. Just saw a squirrel eat a gold finch on our deck. He ate it all... flesh and feathers.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Dateline;:Chicago, (again) and I have just seen a squirrel up the tally taking out a nest box of sparrow chicks. After the deed he came to the entrance and stuck his head out for a couple of minutes then went back inside presumably for seconds. The grieving parents could do nothing to dislodge him. Food is plentiful about now, he just had a hankering for young bird I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Recently saw 3 or 4 squirrel's dining on a dead squirrel (road kill).

    ReplyDelete
  39. I work at the SA Museum in Cape Town. My office looks out onto the Company Gardens where I can see people, especially tourists, trying to play with the cute little squirrels. Personally I've always found them a bit twitchy, and never like their tendancy to rush right up to me like they're going to climb my leg.

    All my suspicions were confirmed when I parked my car at the back of the building this morning and found a squirrel gnawing on the head of a bird that had been lying there for about 4 days. It was nasty.

    ReplyDelete
  40. That makes I think 24 reports recorded here. It's clearly not a rare event.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Disgusting. I googled the "squirrel eating birds term" after this happened at my parent's house in Southern California. Plenty of other food to be had...June in SoCal. My folks have a bird feeder and enjoy seeing the sparrows and finches come down to eat. The ground squirrels would sit under the bird feeder and wait for birds to land on the ground. They would pretend to eat the seeds until a bird was close enough. They would jump after the bird and drag it off alive and then eat it by the head. It is pretty disturbing. After discovering they eat little birds, we also discovered that those vile creatures also make great .22 LR targets.

    ReplyDelete
  42. We live in Central Orange Co, Ca. We recently purchased a bird feeder to hang on a pole "system" sold by a wild bird supply company. Within a week a squirrel had found the feeder and was eating the seed. The feeder has wire platform that allows the seed mess to drop to the groud and makes a perfect perch for the squirrel.
    My husband moved the feeder off the pole to the underhang on our garage roof. The squirrel came back into our yard, this time it drank the nectar from our hummingbird feeder!

    Yesterday afternoon I heard a racket in the yard and came running out. I saw the bird feeder swinging wildly - and looked over to see the creature jumping from the garage roof onto our gate and taking off like lightning. I noticed a large lump on the wire screen of the feeder and as I came closer I was horrified to see a headless and partialy eatan bird.
    There are several fledglings coming to the feeder and I suppose the one that the little fiend caught was not alert enough. Surprising to see how fast that squirrel moved when I came out; birds are probably this particular squirrl's main meal as it seemed to know how to hunt like a predator not a scavenger! My husband and I discussed what to do about this, we hate to get rid of the feeder. I'm on the internet now looking into purchasing a squirrel baffle so we can go back to using the pole hanger. So far the least expensive I've found that would work is $40 - a price I'm willing to pay not to see another headless bird!

    ReplyDelete
  43. I live in Western Wisconsin:

    Heard a racket at the feeder this morning and looked outside. It was actually a squirrel hanging upside down at our birdhouse eating the wood around the opening to make it bigger
    (I am assuming) so he could get at what is inside. My husband went out and threw a rock at him and then checked out the birdhouse. Nothing inside but an old nest. Never have seen a squirrel do such a thing but after reading all the comments on here I guess it's more comment than we think. Now my birdhouse is destroyed because the wood around the opening is all jagged and chewed. We thought the squirrel might be rabid, so I am glad that is not the case.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I got to this page the same way as many others. I just went out to bury a dead Cardinal on my driveway, and one of my very fat squirrels was walking away with it in his mouth! I trailed him a bit and he casually left my property still carrying the bird. So, squirrels do appear to be carrion eaters at a minimum.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Just witnessed (and photographed) a squirrel taking down a live bird (mourning dove) in a parking lot, dragging it to a tree, and climbing up with it. Unbelievable!!
    San Antonio, Texas

    ReplyDelete
  46. I had thought that the phenomenon was unique to our more blood-thirsty northern sqirrels. I've seen them up here in Canada raid bird-houses, dropping
    the baby birds to the ground to die. I have not seen them eat any, but there are often feathers aroung (I had blamed neighbor cats).
    Interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Just saw a squirrel eating a sparrow this morning while sitting under my birdfeeder. Not sure where he got it from, though it has been quite windy here the last day or so.
    Dallas, Texas

    ReplyDelete
  48. I saw a squirrel attack a baby starling today and I scared the squirrel off.I was going to take the bird to a clinic but he died before I got a chance to leave.It was disturbing to say the least.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Squirrel killing a baby rabbit - I was just watching out of my back window and saw a squirrel come out from under the upside-down canoe in my back yard with a small animal in it's mouth. The squirrel dropped it off the edge of some rocks. Then a full grown rabbit came out and chased the squirrel away. I went outside to see what it was that the squirrel had, I thought it was a mouse at first, but it was clearly a baby rabbit that had been thoroughly chewed on (headless). I had no idea that a squirrel would do that! The poor mama rabbit just stood there looking at me - they don't normally let me get that close to them.
    Grand Junction, CO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Update, the squirrel came back later and took the little bunny body, chewing on it some more, but not without a fight from the big rabbit. I got a picture out of my back window of the rabbit in midair and the squirrel scampering under the canoe. Crazy.
      Grand Junction, CO

      Delete
  50. It's July 16 2012 I have never in my life seen this happen (I'm 55) A squirrel just ate a bird. It was sitting above my bird feeder just tearing the little bird apart how horrible. Wareham Mass

    ReplyDelete
  51. I live in Blaine Mn and I have heard very early in the morning birds scream all the time. Sometimes I think the squirrels are messing with the birds nest, trying to get at eggs etc etc...then yesterday my boyfriend said he heard a noise, looked outside and a squirrel was on top of a bird and the bird was flapping its wings hard trying to escape. When I asked him why the hell he didn't try to help the bird he said, "I don't know I thought maybe the squirrel was just curious." Makes me think I don't want to have my cats out on the deck anymore reading all these comments esp the one about the pack of them attacking a stray dog. Gross.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I saw a squirrel eating a bird yesterday (and thus I search/find this string). I took photos but they did not come out well.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Who knew ! just when you think you've seen it all , there it was , a squirrel running up a tree with a sparrow in it's mouth ... wow !
    I think everyone on this site is as surprised as myself about this , I've spent alot of time in the woods hunting and foraging and have never seen (or thought) this before ... the image in my mind of a 'cute squrrel' is now gone ... it's now replaced by an image of a sinister squirrel surrounding it's high perch with wind chimes made from birdy bones !

    ReplyDelete
  54. Yet more data, from Oklahoma: we spotted a squirrel in a tree by our kitchen window holding and apparently eating something quite large....a bird? surely not.

    Shocked, we tried to figure out what it was--"a dove?"--seconds later this guess was confirmed by the dead body dropping down to the pavement below....minus its head, which remained in the squirrel's paws.

    The squirrel munched on the bird head for a while. Eventually we stopped watching.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Just returned home to find a squirrel greedily devouring a sparrow in a branch outside my window. It was very protective of the carcass, and scurried off with the bird when it heard my camera. Like Anonymous January 21, 2013's report, the squirrel was consuming the head.

    Madison, Wisconsin


    ReplyDelete
  56. I was walking my dogs today and heard a strange sound coming from a bird's nest. I look up and saw a squirrel eating something. I threw a stick at the squirrel and he ran off. Its March in Minnesota and the squirrels are big and fat. I know it's nature but I can't stand to see an animal kill another animal. Not on my watch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Remember the bird may have died from weather/lack of food/parasites etc and the squirrel may have been serving as a scavenger rather than a predator.

      Delete
  57. I live in Ardmore, Oklahoma. I just happened to look out my bedroom window when I saw a squirrel race upon a bird & catch him. We have a back yard full of pecan trees and this squirrel didnt look like he was missing any meals. It is early May and in the 60's. Not knowing that squirrels eat birds, I look at my daughter & tell her that a squirrel just caught a bird, by the time I look back out the window, we see the squirrel sitting
    there eating the birds head. We were both horrified & thought he was a rabid squirrel until we came across this site. We watched this squirrel go on to chase a smaller squirrel around a tree for a bit. And after that, they both went their seperate ways.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, anonymous. That was obviously predation, not scavenging. Good report.

      Delete
  58. There is a nest right outside my window sil and iv occasionally seen a squirrel scampering around the nest couple of times. Only yesterday saw a dead pidgeon right next to the nest and this morning chanced upon a squirrel mercilessly nibbling at d poor dead bird.
    India

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad to hear that it happens in other countries and is not just an American aberration. Thanx.

      Delete
  59. Two days ago a squirrel somehow managed to get inside the birdcage we put on our porch through -- it manages to open the sliding door because my child forgot to lock it with the locking rod -- and then ate our parakeet right in front of our child who watched this unfolding in utter horror. After that the squirrel got trapped inside the cage for a whole day as my wife and I debated about what to do about it. The next morning, as I prepared to take some picture of the trapped squirrel before off to work, I discovered that it's no longer there. It had apparently managed to free itself from the birdcage and escaped, leaving only scattered bones and feathers as reminder of the gruesome scene for my child's memory.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Quite a story! I'm surprised a squirrel would be that aggressive. Do you live in Australia? :.)

    ReplyDelete
  61. We live in eastern Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. By the way, just showed my posting to my daughter. She said there is but one correction. The locking rod was properly in place on the birdcage and was somehow popped out by the squirrel. This is just getting more unbelievable.

    ReplyDelete
  62. We were in Disneyworld (Epcot) in Florida a few days ago, and a squirrel ran right in front of us holding a bloody baby bird. I was shocked as I had no idea a squirrel would eat a baby bird! I knew they'd steal bird eggs, but never knew they'd actually kill a bird for meat. My 4 year old saw the squirrel and followed it to a bush, only to have it actually lunge at her face from the bush, I assume to defend it's meal. Fortunately, she was too distracted to notice what it had in it's paws, otherwise she'd still be having nightmares.

    ReplyDelete
  63. At least i'm not the only one to witness the horror. I heard screaming birds outside and i saw a squirrel, i knew there was a nest nearby so i figured mom is just being protective. Nope! Baby bird flailing and screaming in his mouth! I'm so upset by this. The little furry bastard had just eaten peanuts i'd left out for it too. I dont like that squirrel anymore.

    (Bird was either robin or brewers blackbird, we have nests of both nearby. Location: Meridian ID. Squirrel: reddish orange belly with traditional brown back. I presume belly is colored from blood the evil bastard)

    ReplyDelete
  64. My aunt lives in Illinois near the border of Wisconsin and she showed me a picture of a squirrel with a dead blue Jay in his mouth which led me here. The guy down road from them raises pheasants and occasionally let's some go so they get pheasants that come to their feeders a lot. She told me the other day she witnessed a squirrel jump on one of the pheasants trying to take it down a well. I couldn't believe it. I would think the size alone would deter a squirrel from even trying. I guess not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's interesting about the pheasant encounter; I'm as surprised as you were. Tx for the comment.

      Delete
  65. Rodents are opportunists... think rats... and will gladly accept some easy protein in their diet. It has been long known that the American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is the leading cause of death among varying hare young under a few weeks of age. They are active predators of young mammals and songbirds, not surprising that gray squirrels indulge as well.

    ReplyDelete
  66. I heard the screams of house sparrows and ran to the window. A freakin' fox squirrel had a feathered baby sparrow in it's mouth. I ran outside and demanded he drop it. The poor baby was flapping it's wings trying to get away. I threw peanuts at the squirrel and screamed at it... all he did was run up the tree and proceed to eat it. omg. so gross and sad. This is early spring w/ tons of food around, plus I feed these squirrels peanuts daily. I am thinking NO MORE !! go vegan you little buggers !!!

    ReplyDelete
  67. Just went to check on our blue bird house. I had cleaned out an empty nest a couple days ago and wanted to see if another was under construction. I opened the box and found a chickadee and a southern flying squirrel. Needless to say, the squirrel was in much better shape than the chickadee. The bird was quite dead. First time I'd seen this. The squirrel ran off and I disposed of the bird body. Would rather not have the squirrel move in permanently. Guess I'll relocate and (try to) squirrel proof the nest box access.

    ReplyDelete
  68. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...