Logo: Gliding mammals of the world

The world’s gliding mammals are an extraordinary group of animals that have the ability to glide from tree to tree with seemingly effortless grace. There are more than 60 species of gliding mammals including the flying squirrels from Europe and North America, the scaly-tailed flying squirrels from central Africa and the gliding possums of Australia and New Guinea.

Siberian Flying Squirrel

Siberian Flying Squirrel / Pteromys volans
Pteromys volans

Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae, Pteromyini

Description: A small to medium-sized glider, its winter fur is darker than drab grey, a shade more intense than light mouse-grey. Its tail is brownish-grey on the middle and pale straw-coloured on the edges. Its tail underneath is an intense black-grey with lightly coloured greyish patterns.

The fur on its back in summer is of a tint between drab and mouse-grey.

Distribution: Includes Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Russia, Siberia, southward nearly to Germany, eastward into Scandinavia, and to northern China including Xinjiang (Altai) in the north-west and Heilongjiang and Jilin in the northeast, and Korea and Hokkaido Island, Japan.

In Finland it is found in mixed forest, especially spruce forest dominated by mature birches and conifers; in China it is found in subalpine coniferous forest; while in Korea it occurs in the extreme northeast boreal forests as well as southward along the Tae-bak Mountain range.

Reproduction: The mating season ranges from late February to June. The male follows the female calling with a low ‘juk, juk, juk’ that sounds like an insect. Males may also fight over females in oestrous.

After mating, the female nests, giving birth alone in a tree cavity or nest box to between two and six young (average three). The young become independent by mid-June to early July and a second litter is born in late July to mid August.

Diet: Eats buds, shoots, leaves, seeds, nuts, berries and occasionally bird nestlings and eggs. During winter it feeds mainly on catkins of Alder and Birch, caching the catkins in nest holes (sometimes of up to 5 litres capacity) and on branches of old spruces. Its summer diet includes mainly leaves of deciduous trees, especially Alnus.

In Finland it feeds on the seeds of Birch, Aspen, Alder, Norway Spruce (Picea abies) and Scots Pine. In summer, it eats the leaves of deciduous trees. In Japan, during spring and early summer, it feeds on the young shoots of willows, birches, black alders and Japanese elms, and in late summer and autumn on birch, black alder, maple, and mizunara oak seeds.

It does not store food or hibernate, but feeds instead on the seeds in autumn to store fat and increase its weight by 15–20 per cent.

Ecology: Nests in cavities, in abandoned woodpeckers’ holes or in nest boxes, lining its nest with wild ivy and vine bark (which is torn into strips), moss from old birds’ nests and animal hairs. From May to October it starts its daily activities approximately 15 minutes after sunset and ends them 20 minutes before sunrise, during which approximately 75 per cent of the time is spent feeding.

During winter its hours of peak activity become extremely short, often less than an hour. The average home range of animals studied in Finland was 60 hectares for males and 8 hectares for females.

Predators include Blakiston’s fish owl (Ketupa blackistoni), the Ural Owl (Strix uralensis), the European Sparrow Hawk (Accipiter nisus), the Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus), Sable (Mustela sibirica) and Domestic Cat (Felis catus). The longevity of the Siberian Flying Squirrel has been recorded to be 4–5 years in captivity, but rarely over three in the wild.

Status: Least Concern. It is listed as Rare in Estonia, Vulnerable in Finland and Endangered in Korea.

Siberian Flying Squirrel / Pteromys volans
Siberian Flying Squirrel
Pteromys volans
Distribution: Siberian Flying Squirrel
HB120–228 mm
TL90–149 mm
HF31–39 mm
M95–200 g

Pteromys volans volans — Northern Palaearctic from Finland, Estonia, Latvia (extinct?), Lithuania (extinct?), Belarus (extinct?), Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, southward nearly to the boundary of north-eastern Germany, eastward into Scandinavia and to north-west to north-east China; extending into central China including Xinjiang, Nei Mongol, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Hebei, Beijing, Shanxi, Henan, Hunan and Guizhou Provinces; also into Korea.

Pteromys volans athene — Korsakoff, Sakhalin Island off eastern Siberia, Russia.

Pteromys volans buechneri — Extends between south-eastern Qinghai, southern Gansu, Ningxia, Henan, and northern Sichuan Provinces in China.

Pteromys volans orii — Hokkaido Island, Japan.

Other species:

Vordermann’s Flying Squirrel / Petinomys vordermanni
Vordermann’s Flying Squirrel

Petinomys vordermanni

Japanese Flying Squirrel / Pteromys momonga
Japanese Flying Squirrel

Pteromys momonga

Smoky Flying Squirrel / Pteromyscus pulverulentus
Smoky Flying Squirrel

Pteromyscus pulverulentus

Complex-toothed Flying Squirrel / Trogopterus xanthipes
Complex-toothed Flying Squirrel

Trogopterus xanthipes

Random species

Feathertail Glider / Acrobates pygmaeus

Feathertail Glider
Acrobates pygmaeus

Bartel’s Flying Squirrel / Hylopetes bartelsi

Bartel’s Flying Squirrel
Hylopetes bartelsi

Indian Giant Flying Squirrel / Petaurista philippensis

Indian Giant Flying Squirrel
Petaurista philippensis

Gliding Mammals of the World provides, for the first time, a synthesis of all that is known about the biology of these intriguing mammals. It includes a brief description of each species, together with a distribution map and a beautiful full-color painting.

An introduction outlines the origins and biogeography of each group of gliding mammals and examines the incredible adaptations that allow them to launch themselves and glide from tree to tree.