Flying Squirrels Visiting Bird Feeders

Those of us in black bear country are advised to bring feeders indoors at night so as not to attract bears, but occasionally I forget to do so. On those occasions, even if there is no bear damage in the morning, the feeders inevitably need refilling. What stealthy critter is visiting once the sun goes down? Very possibly, flying squirrels are the culprits. These nocturnal rodents can glide nearly 300 feet from tree to tree or tree to ground. They stretch their legs out and direct their glide by controlling the position of the flaps of skin (patagia) that extend from the outside of the wrists on the front legs to the ankles of the hind legs on both sides of the body. The broad, flattened tail acts as a parachute, rudder, stabilizer, and brake during a glide. Feeders are rarely far enough from a tree to necessitate a glide – a short leap does the trick. If you feed birds, try shining a light on your feeders at night and watching carefully. You may very well be treated to the sight of several flying squirrels helping themselves to your sunflower seeds and suet.


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