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Flying Squirrels Visiting Bird Feeders

Are you finding that the amount of seed in your bird feeders drops precipitously after dark?  Those of us in black bear country are advised to bring feeders in at night so as not to attract bears, but occasionally several hours of darkness have passed before I remember to do so.  When that happens, the feeders inevitably need filling.  What stealthy critter is visiting once the sun goes down?  Very possibly, flying squirrels are the culprits.  These nocturnal rodents can glide as far as 295 feet from tree to tree, or tree to ground.  They stretch their legs out and direct their glide by controlling the position of the flap of skin (patagium) that extends from the outside of the wrist on the front leg to the ankle of the hind leg on both sides of their body.  Their broad, flattened tail acts as a parachute, rudder, stabilizer and brake during the 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 after the sun goes down.  You may very well be treated to the sight of several flying squirrels helping themselves to your sunflower seeds and suet.

5 responses

  1. Roseanne Saalfield

    Mary, this is interesting. My feeders are emptied by birds exclusively far as I know. The finch right now are ravenous and of course we have our fascinating irruptions. I had noted the Pine Siskin before your post and am hoping we get at least one Crossbill in this mix, but none so far. Back in the summer I asked you if you had ideas of who might be chewing on the bark of two young maple trees. You asked for photos but before I could send one (or did I send one) I think I sent photos I’d found on line of comparable damage. Your guess was porcupine, as was my arborist’s. Also potentially squirrel. I used a spray product available on line (some quite expensive) and discharged a can on both trees in one application, 6 feet up the trunk. It’s done the trick, at least for now. Thanks for your help

    Roseanne Saalfield Harvard (btw, I understand from Peter that his class is having their l0th reunion the Fri or Sat after Thanksgiving. Is your daughter planning to attend?)

    November 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm

  2. Susan in NH

    Awwwe, such fascinating, nocturnal creatures! There is something mysterious and intriguing about them, almost “other worldly”, to me anyway. And they’re so soft! I just wish they didn’t want to live in my house. Great photo Mary!

    November 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm

  3. Kathy Schillemat

    Cute outside, but serious pain in the neck if they get in your house. I have very little love for these creatures as I can’t seem to get them out of my house.

    November 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm

  4. George in Wentworth

    I live at the edge of the White Mountain National Forest and leave my feeders out over night throughout the year. I have purchased a bear proof bird feeding system (Google “birds only feeder system”) which works great, but have always wondered if the flying squirrels have foiled the system. This has inspired me to shine a light on the feeders during the evening to see what I find.

    November 1, 2012 at 3:10 pm

  5. Gorgeous photo of the flying squirrel! I have always wanted to se see one, but don’t live close enough to the woods to attract them to my feeders.

    November 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

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