75 Favorite Wildlife Foods

Fox squirrel, 2009 eating a Santa Anna Plum in Fullerton CA. Creative Commons photo by Davefoc.

The list below ranks in order the top 75 favorite wildlife foods.

The ranking is determined using two criteria to describe the role of the plant food in animals’ diets:

1) the number of species that utilizes the food,

2) how significant the food is within an individual species overall diet

So while a food may not be popular across a large number of species, it still could be strongly preferred by a few species. By coordinating with a rehabber’s specific needs, a forager can decide which plants to best target for collection.

Be sure to check any item listed below  in the database to see if there are any toxicological warnings associated with that plant or part of the plant.

What Criteria is Used for the Ranking the Lists?

Common Name Botanical Name Part Eaten
1 blackberry Rubus spp. fruit
2 elderberry Sambucus spp. fruit
3 cherry, wild Prunus spp. fruit
4 blueberry Vaccinium spp. fruit
5 dogwood Cornus spp. fruit
6 grape Vitis spp. fruit
7 smartweed (knotweed) Polygonum spp. seeds
8 corn Zea mays agricultural grain
9 mulberry Morus spp. fruit
10 oak Quercus spp. nuts
11 ragweed Ambrosia spp. seeds
12 pokeweed Phytolacca americana fruit
13 serviceberry Amelanchier spp. fruit
14 sedge Carex spp. seeds
15 millet, wild Echinochloa spp. seeds
16 sumac Rhus spp. fruit
17 pine Pinus spp. seeds
18 panicgrass Panicum spp. seeds
19 juniper Juniperus spp. fruit
20 bristlegrass Setaria spp. seeds
21 wheat Triticum spp. agricultural grain
22 Virginia creeper Parthenocissus spp. fruit
23 crabapple/ apple Malus spp. fruit
24 poison ivy, eastern Toxicodendron radicans fruit
25 bayberry (waxmyrtle) Myrica spp. fruit
26 olives Elaeagnus spp. fruit
27 bulrush Scirpus spp. seeds
28 gum Nyssa spp. fruit
29 oats Avena spp. agricultural grain
30 gum, black (black tupelo) Nyssa sylvatica fruit
31 viburnum Viburnum spp. fruit
32 holly Ilex spp. fruit
33 beech, American Fagus grandifolia nuts
34 redcedar, eastern Juniperus virginiana fruit
35 strawberry Fragaria spp. fruit
36 rose Rosa spp. fruit
37 birch Betula spp. seeds
38 oak, northern red Quercus rubra nuts
39 sunflower Helianthus spp. seeds
40 switchgrass Panicum virgatum seeds
41 greenbrier Smilax spp. fruit
42 honeysuckle, bush Lonicera spp. fruit
43 huckleberry Gaylussacia spp. fruit
44 elm Ulmus spp. seeds
45 olive, autumn Elaeagnus umbellata fruit
46 nightshade Solanum spp. fruit
47 spruce Picea spp. seeds
48 hickory Carya spp. nuts
49 widgeongrass Ruppia maritima aquatic greens
50 maple Acer spp. seeds
51 dock Rumex spp. seeds
52 mountain ash Sorbus spp. fruit
53 hawthorn Crataegus spp. fruit
54 pondweed Potamogeton spp. seeds
55 dogwood, flowering Cornus florida fruit
56 sassafras Sassafras albidum fruit
57 widgeongrass Ruppia maritima seeds
58 pigweed (amaranth) Amaranthus spp. seeds
59 lingonberry Vaccinium vitis-idaea fruit
60 hackberry Celtis spp. fruit
61 oak, chinkapin Quercus muehlenbergii nuts
62 bluegrass Poa spp. seeds
63 walnut Juglans spp. nuts
64 sweetgum Liquidamber styraciflua seeds
65 pondweed Potamogeton spp. aquatic greens
66 wild rice Zizania spp. seeds
67 crabgrass Digitaria spp. seeds
68 persimmon, common Diospyros virginiana fruit
69 clover Trifolium spp. seeds
70 spikerush Eleocharis spp. seeds
71 winterberry, common Ilex verticillata fruit
72 mulberry, red Morus rubra fruit
73 hemlock Tsuga spp. seeds
74 muskgrass Chara spp. aquatic greens
75 chickweed, common Stellaria media seeds

The main resources used to build this website usually rated foods in three levels of preference: high, middle and low. But, a plant may be high preference in Michigan but lower preference in Virginia.  So the preference factor has some built in limitations. Still, it is factor #1 in the algorithm.

The second factor considered was how many species of animals ate the part of the plant in consideration. A seed that 29 species ate would outrank a seed that only 5 species ate.

From a foragers perspective, it would be ideal to collect the most highly preferable foods that feed the widest range of rehabilitation animals, right? Well maybe not.

Consider if a rehabilitator only works with foxes? To research which foods would be most beneficial in the “fox only” scenario, the only consideration that she would care about is the most preferred food for foxes, not how many other species ate it.

So the ranking lists are the most general broad interpretation of the data. You will want to generate your own lists from the search feature to find out just what you want to target for collection.

References Used with Permission:

The Fire Effects Information System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).

Fire Effects Information System (2017) Plant species ecology literature reviews. Retrieved various dates from https://www.feis-crs.org/feis/

Martin, A.C., Zim, H.S., Nelson, A.L. (1951). American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits. New York: Dover Publications.

Scott, M. (2013). Songbird Diet Index. National  Wildlife  Rehabilitators  Association, St. Cloud, MN.