Do Flying Squirrels Really Fly?

A flying squirrel clinging to the side of a tree.

A flying squirrel is a type of a squirrel that poses a thin skin membrane on both sides of its body extending from its forelimb to the hind limb. Flying squirrels are scientifically known as pteromyins. It is a scientific term that refers to the various types of nocturnal mammals that contain a thin membrane on their sides of their bodies. The animals use the membrane for gliding or sliding between trees.

Most squirrels feed on nuts and seeds, and they are omnivores in nature, making them have a wide range of food to feed on from fruits, insects, fungi, nuts, and seeds. However, southern flying squirrels feed on eggs, carrion, and birds which makes them carnivores.

Do Flying Squirrels Really Fly?

The flying squirrels can be classified into two, i.e., the northern flying squirrels that are found existing in the northeast parts of North America and the southern flying squirrels commonly found in the eastern parts of the United States. Despite the fact that two species exist in different parts of North America, they both live in deciduous forests and woodlands where they can easily jump from one tree to another with ease.

Flying squirrels are thought to be able to fly, hence their name. However, flying squirrels cannot actually fly, at least not like birds and bats do. Flying squirrels glide from one tree to the next with the aid of their thin membranes. This membrane is parachute-like, and it can stretch extensively from the squirrel’s wrist to its ankle. When this squirrel wants to move from one tree to another without touching the ground, it positions itself from a high branch. It then stretches its limbs, exposing the thin membrane. It then jumps high enough with all its energy and uses its legs to make slight movements that steer its movement in the air.

The speed at which the squirrel moves in the air is dependent on its ability to change positions of its limbs and tail while gliding. When this squirrel reaches its destination, i.e., the next available tree, it uses its tail to slow down its speed for a smooth landing. The squirrel’s tail is described as being fluffy and is used to stabilize the flight by balancing the squirrel during the flight. They can glide from one tree to another due to their small and light body weight that makes it easy for the thin membrane to support them long enough in the air.


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