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Will Flying Squirrels Feed At Bird Feeders?

By Chris Williams on July 11, 2014.

We have a bird feeder hanging from a tree in our backyard. I fill it regularly and it’s usually good for about 4-5 days before I have to fill it again. Lately, it is empty every morning. It’s not birds feeding on the seeds. The feeder has a baffle to keep gray squirrels from climbing down the wire and reaching it. I don’t see any animal tracks under the feeder. My neighbor says it could be flying squirrels. Is that possible? Do they eat bird seed? —S.S., Hampton, NH

Flying Squirrels Have a Well-Rounded Diet

flying squirrels

A flying squirrel enjoying a meal from a bird feeder

Flying squirrels feed on a range of foods, mostly acorns and other nuts, fungi (mushrooms), and lichens. They also snack on fruits, berries, buds, sap, seeds, bird eggs, lots of insects, and small nestling birds when they are very hungry.

But, will flying squirrels feed at a bird feeder? It’s possible. If your bird food is sunflower seeds or a mix that contains other foods the squirrels like (nuts, berries, insects), flying squirrels could be enticed to your feeder. And it may be possible for flying squirrels to reach the feeder, where gray squirrels can’t, by gliding directly onto it.

In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, we have both the northern flying squirrel and the southern flying squirrel. Flying squirrels are active only at night, so most people that have them in their yards don’t even know it and never see them. They’re cute little guys, about the size of a chipmunk with big eyes.

The Gliding Flying Squirrel

A flying squirrel doesn’t actually fly so much as it glides. These squirrels have a membrane of fur-covered skin that stretches between front and back legs (similar to a bat). By launching themselves from a high point with outstretched legs, they can glide 20-60 feet. Depending on how your feeder is situated, squirrels could glide from the trunk or a branch and land on the feeder.

It may be time to think about relocating your feeder, perhaps on a pole away from a tree. But first, you should try to watch flying squirrels in the act some night. They’re amazing to watch. Lights don’t seem to bother them so if you really want a show, rig up a light with a motion detector aimed at your feeder.

Photo credit: wackybadger / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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