Discover Nature NotesMore posts

The Incredible Flying Squirrel

Nov 14, 2016

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a... flying squirrel?!

If you venture out near the woods after dark, you might hear the high-pitched cry of a flying squirrel. Flying squirrels can be common near extensive woods, where they are active only at night. Flying squirrels are small relatives of gray and fox squirrels. They are about five inches long and weigh a little more than a king-size chocolate bar.

Bats are the only mammals that truly fly -- flying squirrels do not. They don't have wings. Instead, a loose fold of skin extends from wrist to ankle. When they extend their front and hind legs, the membrane stretches out and supports the squirrel in a glide for long distances. They use their broad, flat tails to steer. Although they can glide one-third the length of a football field, they more often glide two or three car lengths.

Flying squirrels live in tree cavities, often those created by woodpeckers. In residential areas, they will use birdhouses placed 20 to 30 feet above the ground. Flying squirrels can be attracted to a platform feeder with sunflower seeds, peanut better, and other nuts and suet.

You can sometimes hear flying squirrels call from treetops. You might also hear soft thumping noises when they land, or the sound of their scurrying feet on tree trunks, rooftops or even attics.

Fast Facts: Flying Squirrel

  • Northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) and southern flying squirrels are the only two native flying squirrel species found in North America.
  • Size is one way to tell northern and southern flying squirrels apart. The southern species is smaller, about 8 to 10 inches in length. Northern flying squirrels are 10 to 12 inches long.
  • Once a flying squirrel lands on a tree trunk following a flight, they promptly scurry to the other side of the trunk to avoid any predators that may have followed them. Nevertheless, owls, hawks, tree snakes, and climbing mammals frequently manage to catch and consume these tiny rodents.
  • Flying squirrels can live up to 10 years in captivity, or about half that in the wild.
  • Humans have long been envious of the flying squirrel’s gliding abilities. Base jumpers and skydivers have developed a special suit that mimics the flying squirrel. The suit works to slow their descent and allows them to maneuver through the air.

Additional facts courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation.

flying_sq_on_tree_31lores-2.jpg

Flying Squirrel on Tree
Flying Squirrel on Tree

Flying Squirrels

Watch Squirrels glide in this video.
Watch Squirrels glide in this video.

flying_squirrel-300x188.jpg

Flying Squirrel
Flying Squirrel

Recent Posts

trail

Celebrate National Days Outdoors

May 31, 2020

Celebrate national days locally in Missouri's great outdoors this month. Get ideas and tips in this month's Discover Nature Note.

Longear Sunfish

The Color of Fish

May 26, 2020

Fish use color for blending into their surroundings, selecting mates, and self-defense. They can also change their colors and patterns by mood. Learn more about the how fish use color in this week's Discover Nature Note.
 

Gray Tree Frog Calling

Amphibian Noisemakers

May 17, 2020

Discover the sounds and skills of Acris crepitans and Hyla versicolor, more commonly known as cricket frogs and gray tree frogs. They perform an outdoor suite while munching on pesky insects that are not so sweet. Learn more in this week's Discover Nature Note.
 

Field Guide

Discovering nature from A-Z is one click away

Recipes

You had fun hunting, catching or gathering your quarry—now have more fun cooking and eating it.
Check out the recipes