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Squirrel glider

Squirrel glider

Petaurus norfolcensis

Agile gliders raise their families in tree hollows

Look up in the forest to spy possible hollow homes of the beautiful squirrel glider.

The squirrel glider is an arboreal marsupial.  This means it lives in the mid-storey and canopy of the forest and rarely comes to the forest floor.  Squirrel gliders nest in tree hollows found in the trunks or broken boughs of mature trees, especially eucalypts.

Gliders have a membrane of skin that stretches between front and hind legs enabling them to glide sizeable distances between trees.

The medium-sized squirrel glider is one of 60 gliding marsupial species found in Australia.

It’s large yet sparse population is distributed along the east coast, from the tropical rainforests in the north to temperate western Victoria.

They are larger than their close relative the sugar glider, measuring 18 - 23cm in body length, with an even longer tail. Squirrel gliders have blue-grey to brown-grey fur with a white underbelly. The tip of their soft, bushy tail is black and looks as though it has been dipped in paint. They have a distinct black stripe starting between their eyes and ending mid-back. Their large nocturnal eyes allow for after-dark vision.

Gliders feed at night on a seasonally dependent omnivorous diet of mostly insects (mainly caterpillars, beetles and stick-insects), pollen and nectar. Wattle and eucalyptus sap is harvested by using their sharp claws to pierce the tree bark.

A squirrel glider family consisting of one adult male, one or more adult females and many offspring, will use various hollows within their territory as nesting and refuge sites.  Breeding begins in August and females can give birth to up to two live young.  Living in families of up to 10, squirrel gliders alert each other when threatened. The call of a squirrel glider is a throaty ‘nar-wee’ sound.

Natural predators include owls and introduced animals such as foxes, dogs and cats.  However the squirrel glider is most threatened by loss of hollow homes and fragmentation of forest habitat.

You may not see one on your visit to Mary Cairncross, but know that these amazing creatures are most likely sleeping high above your head!