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It’s a bird...it’s a plane...it’s a flying possum – it’s the Squirrel Glider!
This small possum has a membrane of skin that stretches between its front and hind legs allowing it to glide through the air from tree to tree. In fact, the Squirrel Glider has been observed to glide distances anywhere between 40m to 70m! You have to be extremely lucky to see one of these agile, fluffy acrobats in action though, because they’re nocturnal.
This arboreal (tree-dwelling) marsupial can be quite a social creature and nesting groups can consist of two to ten members. They like to take shelter by creating their nests in the hollow of trees. A family group is usually made up of one adult male, two adult females and their offspring.
Females can give birth to two litters per year, usually producing one to two young each litter after a gestation period (pregnancy) of approximately three weeks. Newborns crawl straight into their mother’s marsupium (pouch) and stay inside attached to her teat for up to 3 months, getting all the nutrition they need from their mother’s milk.
In the fourth month the young are weaned and spend their time in the family nest learning to forage for food with the adults. Over the next few months the young become completely independent of their parents, and are soon ready to move out on their own to establish their own territories, nesting sites and breeding groups. The life expectancy of a Squirrel Glider is 4–6 years.
Similar in appearance to the Sugar Glider the Squirrel Glider is the larger and heavier of the two. It measures 18cm–23cm (head-body length), with its wide, fluffy, prehensile tail reaching anywhere between 20cm–30cm long. It weighs between 200g–260g, has pearl-grey to brownish-grey fur and a distinctive dark stripe trailing from the forehead to the middle of its back, with a creamy white to yellow belly.
Predominantly omnivorous, the Squirrel Glider’s diet consists mainly of beetles, insects and caterpillars, supplemented seasonally with acacia and eucalypt plant products. It prefers lush tree habitats, particularly the canopies of mature woodlands and dry sclerophyll forests.
The Squirrel Glider is found throughout the east coast of Australia, as far north as Cape York Peninsula in Queensland through New South Wales and Victoria and in eastern parts of South Australia.
Due to its widespread distribution the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN red list) classifies this species as Least Concern as of 2008. However, due to continued habitat loss and degradation, increased population fragmentation and predation by cats, foxes and owls, the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 lists the Squirrel Glider as Vulnerable.
- Squirrel Gliders like to have a little bit of pollen, nectar and sap in their diet. To get to the sap this innovative little possum punctures the trunk of the tree with its sharp teeth allowing the juice to ooze out
- The Squirrel Glider uses its membranous ‘wings’ and tail to steer itself and maintain stability as it glides through the air
- Melbourne Zoo
- Healesville Sanctuary
- Werribee Open Range Zoo