The big menu of a small mammal

It reminds me of a menu from Noma, the three-Michelin-star Copenhagen foraged restaurant (actual menu at end of this post!):

Eastern Chipmunks, Tamias striatus, have a varied diet. They eat lots of sunflower seeds, and are easy to train if bribed with a trail of seeds:

Given half a chance they make off with their cheeks full and cache them back at base camp:

They devour many other foods inadvertently provided by humans, like cherry tomatoes

and apples

They also like the flowers and seeds from cultivated flowers like Love-in-a-Mist:

and cosmos

and dianthus:

including infuriatingly the flower buds:

Here is an action video:

If you watch carefully once I zoom in, you can see that they actually eat only the base of the flower, where the nutritious ovary is, and discard the actual flower*. This is what is left:

But they are more than capable of feeding themselves from wild sources, like acorns:


Rose hips:

Hickory nuts (very hard to get int0, but apparently worth the effort)

Here is a brief video of one gnawing on a hickory nut:

And finally beetles (something I showed you before):

These are just the snacks I have watched them tuck away on camera. There are undoubtedly more.

*After the flower is fertilized, the ovary becomes the fruit, and contains the seeds. This is the nutritious part of the plant.

PS An Ohio study showed that beetles, caterpillars and and fungi are the mainstays of their summer diet. In the spring and fall, the balance shifts to a larger proportion of acorns and hickory nuts (easy to cache).

John A. Wrazen and Gerald E. Svendsen (1978) Feeding Ecology of a Population of Eastern Chipmunks (Tamias striatus) in Southeast Ohio. The American Midland Naturalist , Vol. 100, No. 1 pp. 190-201

Right now, they are still ‘hibernating’. Chipmunks are not true hibernators. but they enter a torpid state with decreased body temperature and heartbeat. They wake every few days to feed on stored food. They will wake up fully in a few weeks as the weather warms and the snowpack melts.

PPS Actual Noma menu, for comparison purposes

6 thoughts on “The big menu of a small mammal”

  1. I noticed you left out the fact that on occasion they will eat larger critters, like frogs. Once witnessed, this has changed my appreciation of their cuteness a bit.


  2. Excellent photos. I saw a ‘Chippie’ on the edge of our yard, yesterday. I found on the web, that they also eat slugs, earthworms, snails, butterflies, bird eggs & mice. I’m an adventurous eater, but a few things on the Noma menu, I’d skip. They have been building a tunnel system under our yard, when I put a piece of a flat rock over one of their holes, they just built another hole next to it.


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