Southern Flying Squirrels
These little guys are southern flying squirrels. Their scientific name, Glaucomys volans, means "gray mouse that flies." But like their common name, this too is a misnomer, for these adorable little creatures do not fly; they glide.
Flying squirrels are able to glide because they have a loose flap of skin, called a patagium, extending from wrist to ankle on each side of their body. The edge of the patagium is visible in the top photo as a dark line separating the squirrel's white underparts from its darker topside. With the patagia outstretched the squirrel can glide quite agilely from tree to tree.
Flying squirrels are nocturnal. In fact they are the only nocturnal squirrels. Surprisingly they are said to be more common than the "common" gray squirrel, but due to their nocturnal habits, they are rarely seen. Even though we had been watching the raccoons coming to our deck on a nightly basis, it was 5 years before we saw our first flying squirrel. Once we saw one, we put up a small platform feeder on a nearby tree. We were immediately rewarded by nightly visits of these wonderful, 8 inch long (tail included), large-eyed, balls of fur.
Text and Images Copyright © 2001 David Wittler