MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: Will Northern or Southern flying squirrels feed on humming bird feeder

Date: Mon Sep 29 13:58:49 2003
Posted By: June M. Wingert , RM(NRM),Associate Scientist
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 1060808701.Zo

The water requirements of flying squirrels are not well understood. They 
obviously obtain some water from their food. Free-standing water is 
consumed when available, but their range is not limited to areas with 
available surface water. Where surface water is not available, squirrels 
appear to be physiologically adapted and get sufficient water from food, 
dew and rains. They probably make use of water that temporarily collects 
in tree cavities.
Southern flying squirrels are primarily vegetarian, but will occasionally 
eat animal foods. Nuts, primarily acorns and hickory nuts, are preferred 
foods and make up the bulk of the diet. Flying squirrels will also consume 
various seeds, fruits, berries, mushrooms, buds, flower blossoms and tree 
bark. Animal items that occasionally may be eaten include insects, bird 
eggs and nestlings, small nestling mammals, carrion, and adult shrews and 
Nuts are gathered and stored as winter approaches. The shortening of day 
length rather than temperature triggers the urge to store food. Nuts are 
buried individually or are cached in nest cavities or other cracks and 
crevices in trees. Several hundred nuts can be stored in a night. In good 
nut-production years, the stored nuts carry the squirrels through the 
winter and even into spring and summer. Nuts are eaten in a characteristic 
pattern. Flying squirrels usually cut a fairly smooth circular or oval 
opening on the side or end of a nut. On larger, heavy-shelled nuts they 
will make a second opening or remove an entire end in a single cut. Other 
tree squirrels usually crush nuts without leaving the shells intact. 
The feeding pattern of flying squirrels more closely resembles that of 
deer mice or white-footed mice, which also inhabit cavities and nest boxes 
in southeastern Nebraska, but these species usually do not eat large, 
heavy-shelled nuts, and their tooth marks are finer. Flying squirrels will 
accept a "helping hand" by visiting bird feeders where they consume seeds, 
suet and peanut butter. 
Because flying squirrels are nocturnal and are not valued as a game 
species, they have not been studied as extensively as other tree 
squirrels. Much of our knowledge about flying squirrels has been gained 
from observing them in captivity. Flying squirrels are doing well without 
human assistance in areas of their range where habitat is abundant. 
Management practices have rarely been implemented specifically to benefit 
flying squirrels. 
Flying squirrels readily use nest boxes placed for their benefit or for 
other species. Nest boxes have been used in Nebraska and other areas in 
attempts to determine the status and distribution of flying squirrels. By 
periodically checking nest boxes and capturing and tagging the 
inhabitants, considerable information can be gathered. The number of 
squirrels using an area and their survival can be estimated, and movements 
can be monitored. Nest boxes can be used as a management tool when a 
shortage of cavities exists. Such a situation can occur in a young 
timberstand where trees are old enough to produce mast, but cavities are 
in short supply. 
It would be interesting to try and observe them to see if they are eating 
the hummbird nectar, but since they are nocturnal that might prove to be a 
Check out the following sites for more information on flying squirrels flyingsquirrel/default.asp 

Thanks for taking the time to send in a question to the Mad Sci Network

June Wingert
Associate Scientist
A Biotechnology firm in Houston Texas

Current Queue | Current Queue for Zoology | Zoology archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Zoology.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2003. All rights reserved.