What Do Flying Squirrels Eat? Plant and Insect Diet Explained

Paul West/ Pet And Wildlife Care

Diving into the treetop world of flying squirrels, you’ll find these nocturnal creatures are as fascinating as they are elusive. Their diet is a smorgasbord of woodland offerings, crucial for their survival and aerial acrobatics.

You’re about to uncover what fuels these gliding wonders of the night. From the tender buds of trees to the hardy nuts of the forest floor, get ready to explore the diverse palate of the flying squirrel.

The Diet of Flying Squirrels

Flying squirrels are omnivores, which means your backyard may just be the perfect buffet for these nocturnal creatures. With a diet that varies by season, location, and food availability, these gliders can be quite the opportunists when it comes to their meals.

During spring and summer, young plant shoots and succulent flower buds are on the top of their menu. These parts are packed with nutrients and are easier to digest, which is crucial for energy. As for protein, insects play a significant role in sustaining flying squirrels, especially when it comes to maintaining muscle strength for their aerial acrobatics. They’re often seen hunting for beetles, caterpillars, and winged insects using their acute sense of hearing to detect prey.

Come autumn, the diet shifts as flying squirrels hoard tree nuts like acorns and walnuts. These dense calorie sources provide the stored energy they’ll need for the colder months. Fungi, another favorite, offer not only nutrition but also help with digestion, thanks to beneficial bacteria.

Berries and small fruits are essential components as well. Fruits like wild cherries and mulberries offer a quick sugar rush and hydration, a welcome change from the more fibrous diet of nuts and buds. Plus, the antioxidants found in berries support their robust immune systems against the harsher weather.

Flying squirrels have a unique way of accessing their food. They can glide up to 150 feet, navigating the maze of treetops with precision to reach diverse food sources. Your role in protecting their environment is crucial to their survival. While you may plant some of their favorite treats in your garden, it’s essential to ensure they have access to natural woodlands where their dietary needs can be fully met.

Understanding the diverse diet of flying squirrels showcases the intricate balance of our ecosystem and your place within it. Protecting natural habitats ensures that these incredible gliders continue to soar through our skies and maintain the biodiversity we all rely on.

Plant-Based Foods

Flying squirrels have a diet that leans heavily on plant matter. In spring and summer, these nimble creatures feast on a variety of greens. You’ll find them nibbling on young plant shoots, which are packed with nutrients essential for their growth. As plants blossom, squirrels also indulge in succulent flower buds. These aren’t just a tasty snack; they’re a rich source of energy that’s crucial for the squirrels’ active lifestyles.

Beyond the bright flowers and tender shoots, flying squirrels also have a taste for tree sap. Their sharp incisors allow them to easily tap into maple trees to access this sweet fluid. While it’s a treat, tree sap also provides them with essential minerals. It’s not just about sap though. These critters are fond of berries and small fruits found in their habitats. These juicy morsels offer a burst of vitamins and hydration during the warm months, assisting in their overall well-being.

Come autumn, you’ll notice a shift in their diet. With the changing seasons, flying squirrels collect tree nuts like acorns and walnuts. These are not only nutritious but also ideal for storage, helping them survive when the weather turns cold and food is scarce. Fungi, particularly truffles, are another important component of their diet. Packed with protein and other nutrients, fungi aid in strengthening their immune systems.

For thriving flying squirrel populations, it’s vital that their habitats, teeming with these plant-based foods, are protected. Loss of biodiversity can directly impact their diet and, in turn, their survival rates. Preserving forests and woodland areas ensures that flying squirrels continue to have access to the diverse array of plant-based foods they need to thrive.

Fruits and Berries

When you’re exploring the diverse diet of flying squirrels, it’s essential to highlight the role of Fruits and Berries. During the warmer months, these agile creatures actively seek out the sweetness and nutrients that fruits provide.

Flying squirrels have a particular fondness for berries. Whether it’s blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries, these small fruits are not only juicy, but they’re packed with vitamins that are crucial for the squirrels’ health. In fact, the antioxidants found in berries help support their immune systems, which is vital for their survival in the wild.

As for larger fruits, flying squirrels aren’t shy about taking bites out of apples, peaches, and pears. Though they don’t eat the entire fruit, the parts they do consume offer them essential hydration and energy. In the cover of night, you might spot one delicately nibbling on a fruit, enjoying the sugary flesh.

Their diet isn’t just about immediate satisfaction; it’s also about preparation for harsher seasons. That’s why during the late summer and early fall, they gather and store these nourishments. They’ll stash their haul in tree crevices or buried in the ground to tap into when food sources become scarce.

While they enjoy the natural offerings of the wild, flying squirrels in urban areas may also take advantage of fruit from orchards or gardens. This highlights the importance of coexisting with wildlife and ensuring that human activities don’t limit their access to these vital dietary components.

Understanding what flying squirrels eat, especially their use of fruits and berries, is not just about satisfying your curiosity. It’s a step towards appreciating their ecological role and advocating for the protection of their natural habitats.

Seeds and Nuts

Flying squirrels have a particular taste for Seeds and Nuts, which are a crucial component of their diet. When you picture these agile creatures foraging, imagine them nibbling on the seeds of sunflowers, pumpkins, and squash. These seeds are not just a munching staple; they’re packed with healthy fats and proteins that are essential for the squirrels’ energy levels, especially during the cold months when food is scarce.

The variety of nuts in their diet includes acorns, walnuts, hickory nuts, and the seeds contained within pine cones, which they skillfully crack open with their strong teeth. Nuts serve as a high-calorie food source that helps them maintain their body weight and vitality. Flying squirrels often hoard these nuts in their nests, which act as larders through the winter.

In forests, these small mammals play a key role in seed dispersion, which is vital for the ecosystem. As they carry seeds and nuts back to their nests, some are inevitably dropped along the way, resulting in the growth of new plants in different areas. This activity aids in spreading flora and keeping the forest robust. Moreover, flying squirrels are particularly adept at finding and digging up buried seeds, which can influence the types of plants that thrive in their habitats.

It’s not just their survival at stake; the dietary habits of flying squirrels impact forest health and regeneration. By understanding what flying squirrels eat, you’re also getting a glimpse into the intricate web of forest ecology. Protecting their natural habitats allows them to continue these essential roles in maintaining diverse and healthy woodlands.

To keep your backyard a friendly habitat for these creatures, consider setting up a squirrel feeder and stocking it with a mix of nuts and seeds. You can find squirrel feeders designed to be both functional for the squirrels and entertaining for you to watch.

Insect Protein

While you’re familiar with the fruit and nut part of a flying squirrel’s diet, insects are another crucial element. These nocturnal creatures feast on a variety of insects which provide an excellent source of protein. Their insectivorous habits are not just a dietary preference but a necessity for their survival. The protein from insects aids in muscle repair and growth, and offers vital nutrients that can’t be sourced from plants alone.

During your nightly observations, you might see flying squirrels actively hunting or scavenging for insects. Their typical insect menu includes:

  • Moths
  • Beetles
  • Winged ants
  • Crickets

The consumption of caterpillars is especially beneficial as they are packed with protein and easy to catch. In the soft glow of the evening, these squirrels pounce on unsuspecting insects, providing them with much-needed sustenance. It’s not just about the hunt for flying squirrels; they’ll also indulge in insect larvae and pupae hidden within the bark of trees. This foraging behavior stimulates tree health by controlling potentially harmful insect populations.

Squirrels have a remarkable ability to sense insects through vibrational cues. You wouldn’t see them using this acute perception, but it’s this keen sense that allows them to locate their targets in the dark. Squirrels are not just predators; they’re also opportunistic feeders. In the absence of live prey, they won’t hesitate to scavenge for dead insects, giving them a varied and resourceful approach to meeting their dietary needs.

As seasons change and insect availability fluctuates, flying squirrels adapt their diets accordingly. They rely more heavily on insects during the warmer months when these critters are abundant. Conversely, when winter approaches and the insect population dwindles, these adaptable squirrels shift their focus back to plant-based foods and cached reserves. This flexibility in diet is key to their survival across the varied landscapes they inhabit.

Conclusion

You’ve seen how the flying squirrel’s diet is a fascinating blend of plant-based items and protein-rich insects. Their survival hinges on the ability to adapt and source food from the environment. Whether they’re gliding through the night in search of moths and beetles or foraging for nuts and fruits, these creatures exemplify the intricate balance of nature’s ecosystem. Remember, the health of their habitats plays a crucial role in their dietary access and by extension, their very existence. So next time you spot a flying squirrel, you’ll appreciate not just its aerial acrobatics but also the complex dietary habits that sustain it.

Paul West
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About Paul West

Longstanding and passionate about really having family fun in the backyard. I'm no expert but I've picked up a thing or two along the way!