A flying squirrel does not fly in the true sense of the word. It does not have wings to power itself through the air like a bird. Instead, it glides for long distances, traveling from tree to tree by extending a fur-covered membrane that is attached to its hind and forelegs.
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.
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.
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.
Length: Body, 6 in. Tail, 4 in.
Weight: Up to 6 oz.
Sexual maturity:1-2 years.
Breeding season: January to March.
No. of young: 2-6.
Habit: Nocturnal (sleeps by day). Solitary in summer but lives in groups of up to 24 during winter.
Call: A musical chirping sound or a squeal when threatened.
Diet: Nuts, seeds, fruit, insects, spiders, and birds' eggs.
Lifespan: Up to 10 years.
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