Feeding ecology and diet

Fruit, leaves, and bark are important in the diet of tropical giant squirrels, whereas nuts as well as conifer and deciduous tree seeds are a significant component of North American and European squirrels. A large variety of other food items are also consumed including fungi, berries, buds, shoots, tree sap, and insects. Anecdotal evidence also indicates that some species may opportunistically prey on bird eggs in nests. Squirrels are also known to satisfy their calcium demands by gnawing bones.

Squirrels, like many birds, hide food items to consume them at a later time. Two main strategies have been observed: scatter hoarding in which one or several items are cached at different locations throughout the squirrels territory or home range and larder hoarding in which a large amount of food is stored in one or a small number of sites. Caching is thought to be an adaptive strategy and food stores are important in periods of adverse weather conditions and low natural food availability. Its intensity varies with habitat type and the behavior has been linked to increased survival and reproductive success. The "stealing" of European red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris, caches by the larger introduced gray squirrel, S. caroli-nensis, has been suggested as a factor contributing to the decline of the native red squirrel in Italy by Wauters and others in 2002.

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