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Southern Flying Squirrel image
Southern Flying Squirrel

Southern Flying Squirrel

(Mammal)

Southern Flying Squirrel Baby
Southern Flying Squirrel Baby

Southern Flying Squirrel Habits

Flying squirrels live in tall trees in the forest of North America. By gliding through the air among the trees, they avoid ground predators but are still vulnerable to attack by hawks. Flying squirrels feed at night, but they must remain alert to the presence of owls, which also prey upon them. Al dawn flying squirrels return to hollow trees, abandoned woodpecker holes, or outbuildings and spend most of the day sleeping. The number of squirrels in an area depends on the supply of suitable places to rest and sleep during the day. In summer, individual squirrels have their own resting places, but in winter they sleep in groups of 20 or more for warmth. During very cold weather, the flying squirrels become lethargic and may emerge only to eat the food they gathered in the fall.
The flying squirrel controls its flight with great precision. Before takeoff, it sizes up its target and judges the range and direction. It then leaps with limbs and membrane outstretched, gliding down through the branches. Just before landing, it lifts its tail and swoops upward, landing on the tree trunk with all four fee. A thin cartilage stretches from forelimbs to neck on each side of the squirrel's body, forming an aerodynamic leading edge along the membrane. The squirrel uses its forelimbs to alter the shape and tension of the membrane, thereby increasing or decreasing lift on each side so it can steer itself.

Southern Flying Squirrel Communication

Squirrels communicate by making a lot of different sounds. They make a variety of shrill sounds. They also make a series of chirps. The pitch and the duration of these sounds have meanings to other squirrels.
One of the most amazing things about squirrel communication is that they have been found to use ultrasound (high-pitched sounds that humans can't hear). Ground squirrels make an ultrasonic squeal to warn other animals that a dangerous animal is coming. Researchers noticed that squirrels would open their mouths and produce only a whisper of rushing air. They recorded these sounds and found out that the squirrels were actually making sounds that are so high pitched humans can't hear them.
Tail gestures are another way for squirrels to communicate. The most common tail gesture is the “flicking” which means “get away.” Their tails can also move in all different directions which means different things.

Southern Flying Squirrel Breeding

Approximately 40 days after mating, the female squirrel gives birth to two to six young in a nest she makes in a hole in a tree. By the time the young are weaned at two months, they have already made short exploratory flights with their mother. As they mature, they follow her on nightly foraging trips. Fewer than a third of all young squirrels survive their first year.

Southern Flying Squirrel Food & Feeding

Flying squirrels feed on most types of vegetation. In addition to nuts and seed, they eat buds, shoots, soft fruit, lichens, and fungi. They also eat insects, spiders, and birds' eggs and nestlings. Flying squirrels have large eyes that allow them to see clearly in the dark. Their keen eyesight, their acute hearing, and their long, sensitive whiskers, enable them to locate food. Most of their food is eaten immediately, but nuts and seeds are often hoarded to be eaten later during the cold winter moths. They squirrels' instinct to store food becomes stronger as fall approaches.

Southern Flying Squirrel Key Facts

        Size 
              Height: Length: Body, 6 in. Tail, 4 in
              Weight: Up to 6 ounces
       Breeding
             Sexual maturity: 1-2 years
             Mating: January to March
             Gestation: 40 days
             Number of young: 2-6
       Lifestyle 
            Habit: Nocturnal (sleeps by day). Solitary in summer but lives in groups of up to 24 during winter
            Diet: Nuts, seeds, fruit, insects, spiders, and birds' eggs
            Lifespan: Up to 10 years

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Flying squirrels usually glide from tree to tree but often make sharp, acrobatic turns in the air before landing.
  • The membrane's bulk makes flying squirrels relatively awkward when on the ground.
  • Australian marsupials called gliders use the same technique for moving through the forest canopy, but they are not related to flying squirrels.
  • Squirrels tend to run in erratic paths. This is intended to deceive potential predators as to its chosen direction so that it may escape.
  • The giant Southeast Asian species of flying squirrel can glide 350 feet.

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