The squirrel flies at night
Australian flying squirrel – small, omnivorous rodent, usually lives in trees, prefers to be active at night. The flying squirrel has an English name: Sugar Glider, this name refers to its preference for foods high in sugar.
A. DISTRIBUTION – HABITAT
Flying squirrels are found throughout the North and East of mainland Australia, other places such as Tasmania, Papua New Guinea, and some Indonesian islands. Sugar usually occurs in any forest that contains a suitable food source in these areas, however, the largest distribution is often established in areas with many eucalyptus trees. Sugar usually only hunts at night, eating the sweet sap of eucalyptus or acacia trees. Most of the Australian flying squirrel’s life is spent attached to tree trunks. Native owls, snakes or wild cats are the most dangerous enemies.
B. IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTICS
Australian flying squirrels have many similar features to ground squirrels. Males are usually larger than females and are often bald at the top of their heads. Body length from nose to tail tip is about 24-30 cm. Covering the chubby body – soft fur is usually gray, yellow, brown, rare colors include albino (white), a black stripe extending from the nose to the middle of the back, cream-colored abdomen, throat, and chest. Species are nocturnal, so large eyes help observe movement more clearly, and long ears help determine sounds. Unlike ornamental hedgehogs, Sugar has up to 5 toes on each foot, the most outstanding feature of this species, when the legs are stretched, the membrane around the body (extending from the fifth toe of the front leg to the first toe hind legs) will stretch, giving the flying squirrel the ability to glide through the air.
C. NUTRITION REGIME
Sugar is an omnivore, so its nutritional menu is extremely rich and diverse. During the summer, squirrels mainly eat insects; in winter, when insects become scarce, they mainly eat the sap secreted by eucalyptus and acacia trees. In addition, flying squirrels also eat many other foods such as lizards, small birds, nectar, acacia seeds, poultry eggs, pollen, mushrooms, and native fruits.
The age of sexual maturity in males and females is quite different, while males are usually only 4 months, while females last up to 8 months. In the wild, Australian flying squirrels breed once or twice a year depending on climate and habitat conditions. On the contrary, when raised in captivity, they are provided with more suitable nutrition and a more stable living environment, so flying squirrels give birth to more litters. Normally, each litter of Sugar Gilders only gives birth to about 1 to 2 babies. The gestation period of this species is extremely low, only about 15-17 days, after which the baby Australian flying squirrels (weighing about 0.2g) will crawl. into the mother’s pouch for further development. While in the bag, the baby will be nourished by its mother’s milk and can stay there for 60-70 days. After that, the babies will crawl out, and when they first leave the bag, their eyes will not open until 12-14 days later. It takes up to 2 months for the Suger Gilder to start weaning, and it takes up to 4 months for the young to become independent, but they will live with their mother and brothers until they are 10 months old.
E. BIOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Gliding: this ability is created by the thin skin membrane extending on the 5th toe of the front leg to the first toe of the hind leg. Starting from any tree, the squirrel will launch its body far away and begin to stretch its four legs to form a “carpet”, gliding gently in the air for up to 50 meters. Flying squirrels change their “flying” direction by adjusting their tail or the tilt of their body.
Reduced activity: during cold, dry seasons or rainy nights its activity often decreases. This is different from hibernation, which only lasts for a short time. During winter and drought when the food supply is drastically reduced, Australian flying squirrels will reduce body activity for about 2-23 hours.
- NOTE :
In captivity, flying squirrels will suffer from calcium deficiency if not provided with an adequate diet. Calcium deficiency will cause many dysfunctions of the body, if serious, it will lead to paralysis of the hind legs. A suitable diet for flying squirrels includes at least 50% insects or protein, 25% fruit, 25% vegetables or eucalyptus tree sap.