If you maintain a seed feeder for backyard birds in Georgia, stocked with black oil sunflower seeds, more often than not gray squirrels will visit it.  When this happens these furry visitors seem to draw the ire of the folks trying at attract cardinals, Carolina chickadees and other birds to their backyard.  When I ask people why squirrels irritate them so much they often say the critters eat more than their share of the seeds.  That begs the question how much is too much?

       While it is easy to believe that gray squirrels subsist on sunflower seeds alone. The truth of the matter is, although sunflower seeds are loaded with such things as calcium, protein, and phosphorus, this is not a balanced diet.  Consequently, they also eat other foods such as fruits, berries, bark, wild nuts, and seeds as well as other foods including bones to obtain the nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and the like they need.  Therefore, sunflower seeds typically make up only five percent of the gray squirrel’s diet.

       A number of factors including weather, nutritional needs and availability of other foods determine how many sunflower seeds they consume at your feeders. However, we know that a gray squirrel normally eats 1.5 pounds of seeds and nuts each week.  This is the equivalent to the body weight of a typical gray squirrel.

       While only a portion of these seeds and nuts our black oil sunflower seeds, it is hard to believe they are not gobbling up far more seeds. This is especially true when you watch a gray perched on your feeder eating one sunflower seed after another. They are so adept at this that one study found a gray squirrel is capable of hulling and eating 19 sunflower seeds a minute.





    • Rosanne,

      Thanks for sharing your observation. This marks the 1st time I have heard of squirrels preferring anything over sunflower seeds. Live and learn.


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