Nuts are packed with proteins, carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients, making them an ideal food source for many creatures. From tiny rodents to birds to large animals, there are all kinds of animals that make nuts a big part of their diet. Animals that eat nuts also help to spread seeds, allowing new trees to grow.
What sorts of animals like to eat nuts, and what kinds of nuts do they eat? These are some of the many animals that love to munch on nuts.
10 Animals That Eat Nuts
Lots of animals rely on nuts, including omnivores and herbivores. While some animals are known for their love of nuts, there are nut-eating animals that might surprise you. All of these 10 animals make nuts a big part of their diets.
Squirrels eat a wide range of nuts, including hazelnuts, walnuts, and acorns. Not only does the average squirrel eat around one pound of food a week, but squirrels store nuts and other foods for the winter. It’s common for squirrels to have several underground caches of nuts!
While nuts are a major part of the squirrel’s diet, nuts aren’t the only thing that these rodents eat. Squirrels are actually omnivores and will eat a variety of foods, including fruits, seeds, and even insects and small animals! The reason squirrels love nuts is that they’re full of fat and protein and are easy to store.
The chipmunk is a close relative of the squirrel, and the two animals have very similar diets. Like squirrels, chipmunks hoard food and store it for the winter. Chipmunks are fast food gatherers and can gather an entire winter’s worth of food in just two days!
Some of the nuts that chipmunks enjoy most include acorns, peanuts, and pine nuts. Chipmunks are known for storing nuts, seeds, and other parts of food inside of pockets they have in their cheeks! This makes it easy for a chipmunk to carry nuts back to its underground burrow.
Skunks tend to change their diet along with the season, which helps to ensure that they have enough to eat. In the spring and summer, skunks are drawn to fatty foods, like fish. During the colder months, skunks tend to forage for food and enjoy many types of nuts.
Hickory nuts, pecans, and walnuts are some of the nuts that skunks enjoy most. Since skunks enter a state of torpor during the winter, they don’t need as many calories as they do in warmer months.
Raccoons are known for eating just about anything. In urban environments, these nocturnal animals will even eat out of garbage cans! In the wild, raccoons have an omnivorous diet that includes fish, insects, berries, and nuts.
While raccoons eat nuts throughout the year, they rely on nuts during the winter, when other food sources are scarce. Raccoons are especially fond of acorns, but are happy to eat other types of nuts as well, such as ripe chestnuts, cashews, and hazelnuts.
5. Wild Turkeys
Wild turkeys like to forage for food and can even climb small trees and shrubs! While turkeys primarily feed on grasses and leaves during the spring and summer, they eat a lot of nuts during the rest of the year. In fact, nuts make up the bulk of a turkey’s diet during the fall.
Some of the nuts preferred by turkeys include acorns, beechnuts, and walnuts. While turkeys will sometimes crack nuts open before they eat, they’ll also swallow the nuts whole! Wild turkeys will even scratch through the surface of the snow to find nuts on the forest floor.
The badger makes its home in underground burrows. This makes it easy for badgers to find earthworms, which make up the bulk of this animal’s diet. However, badgers are opportunistic omnivores and enjoy many other types of food as well, including nuts.
Badgers are skilled foragers and are happy to eat any nuts that they come across, including almonds and acorns. When food is scarce, they can even dig to find nuts buried beneath the ground!
To keep energy levels high, a deer needs to eat between 6 and 8 percent of its body weight every day! This means that deer spend a large portion of their day search for food. Deer are herbivores and eat a variety of foods, including fruits, mushrooms, leaves, and of course, nuts.
Some of the nuts that deer enjoy most include hickory nuts, pecans, and beechnuts. Deer also love acorns, especially when the acorns come from white oak trees.
8. Blue Jays
Blue jays are intelligent birds and eat a varied diet. Although blue jays are omnivores, plant matter like nuts and seeds make up the bulk of its diet. Since blue jays have strong bills, they can easily crack open nuts before they eat!
When blue jays aren’t ready to eat, they can also store food for later! They have a large throat pouch that can hold as many as five acorns at the same time! Blue jays often store nuts and save them for later.
9. American Black Bears
The American black bear can grow to be more than 6 feet tall and 600 pounds! Despite its size, it’s an omnivore and primarily feeds on plant matter, like fruits, seeds, and nuts.
Hazelnuts are a favorite of these bears, and bears will often travel long distances to reach nuts! In late summer, when hazelnuts ripen, these nuts can even be the bulk of the black bear’s diet.
Even though a fox’s diet primarily consists of meat protein, such as rodents and carrion, foxes are actually omnivores. When a fox isn’t able to get the nutrients it needs from hunting, it turns to other food sources, like seeds and nuts.
In fact, foxes eat a wide range of nuts, such as cashews, peanuts, Brazil nuts, and almonds. It can be hard for foxes to crack open nuts with their teeth, which is why they tend to prefer softer nuts.