Flying squirrels are found in Europe, North America and parts of Southeast Asia although the sight of one is quite rare. There are about 44 different species of flying squirrels. They range in size and color depending on the species of flying squirrel. While squirrels are active during the day, the flying squirrels are nocturnal. Giant flying squirrel can measure nearly four feet long with a bushy tail.
The flying squirrels do not take to flight like the birds but are just gliders. They may be more aptly referred to as ‘gliding squirrels’ instead of ‘flying squirrels’. They cannot go on a long flight but they glide downward with the help of thin skin flaps stretching between the front and hind legs. This flap called patagia allows them to glide from tree to tree.
The patagia or the loose membranes act as a parachute and support the squirrel while jumping from tree to tree. The flying squirrels normally glide diagonally downward from branches, scurry to the top of the trees and jump on a downward slant to the other trees. Their bushy tails act as rudders while gliding. Both the tail and membrane are used to steer left and right, and even to make 180-degree turns. The flights are normally short ranging between 20 – 30 feet, though some have been known to extend more than 150 feet. The wrist bones help control the speed and direction of flight.
They are omnivorous animals that can eat plants, meat as well as micro organisms. They may live about 6 in the wild and 15 years in captive places like the zoo. Their life expectancy depends on their habitat where their predators live. The major predators are feral cats, snakes, birds, raccoons, owls, dogs and foxes.