Backyard Buddies
Sugar Glider

Photo: Pavel German

Sugar Glider

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Sugar Gliders live in the trees and glide between them using flaps of skin between their front and back legs. These small marsupials live in eastern and northern Australia and nest in tree hollows or nest boxes. Adults can weigh as little as 150 grams. They are grey to brown with a prominent dark stripe over their foreheads, and have prehensile tails which they use to grip on to branches.

In June, sugar gliders begin mating. The female will soon give birth to two babies which are independent by 10 months old.

As they are only 15 cm long and weigh up to just 150g, sugar gliders only need a small entrance to their nest which helps them feel safe from predators.

Sugar gliders are social animals and will share their new home with several adult gliders and their infants. If warning off predators, you will hear them emit a series of shrill barks.

Baby sugar gliders are tiny and can be very vulnerable to cats and dogs. A nest box high off the ground gives a glider family a safe start, but keeping your pets indoors at night will keep them safe after they leave home as well.

If you have sugar gliders in your area, watch out for young gliders learning to fly around January. After living in the pouch and then the nest for nearly four months, the youngsters are ready to spread their 'wings'.

They start with little jumps along their own branch, graduating to longer hops to other branches below. It can be tricky to land on a wet, slippery trunk and young gliders are sometimes seen sliding helplessly to the ground, before starting the long climb back up again. But they are soon able to glide up to 20 metres.

Sugar gliders especially like forests with an understory of acacia, the sap of which they devour. They also eat acacia seeds, nectar, pollen and invertebrates.

Unlike some larger gliders, sugar gliders are able to live in relatively small areas of fragmented forest. They may be living in a remnant forest in your area but with the destruction of so many forests, many sugar gliders are losing their homes. Putting up a nest box for them can be a big help.

Their tiny 15 cm long body allows them to make short glides and sharp turns through dense, immature forests. Rarer gliders such as Leadbeaters and Mahogany are bigger and need to glide faster, so they need open, more mature forests.

Sugar gliders have a twin membrane that stretches from their little finger to their hind legs. When fully stretched out in flight they act as a wing or a parachute enabling them to glide across open areas in the trees. They have another use for these membrane wings. When they forage they use them as pockets to collect food in to take back to their young.

One thing a sugar glider likes to eat is grasshoppers, so they are great buddies to have around your place.

Did you know?

Sugar Gliders will venture up to a kilometre through open country to reach other forests and other glider communities. They are thought to commute along electricity lines and fences and stop off at any tree along the way. A single tree left standing in a paddock or backyard can potentially provide a vital breeding link between one isolated glider colony and another.

Tip

Providing nesting boxes can help your glider buddies, but cats soon learn where to wait for emerging gliders, and can grab them as they glide by. Gliders and other nocturnal buddies are safest when cats are kept inside at night.

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”I remember so many good times in National Parks, and I want my grandkids to love, experience and treasure the true gems of this country. That’s why I support BYB & FNPW.“

Marcia - Grandparent & FNPW Supporter, QLD

Photo: OEH