FEATHER TAIL GLIDER
This tiny Glider is the smallest of all gliders with a head and body length of just 6.5 – 8cm.
They get their name from their remarkable tail which is flat with stiff fringed hair growing horizontally either side all the way to the tip. The tail is used to steer and brake as they glide up to 20 meters through the trees. They are the only known Mammal to have a feather like tail.
Tail length is 7-8cm and shaped just like the feather on a bird. The weight of an adult is 10-15 gram, so this tiny Glider is often missed when in trouble, or mistaken for a mouse when the cat brings it is, which is often how WIRES become involved.
Feathertail Gliders are from the Burramyidae family and are related to the Pygmy Possum. What fascinates me most about these animals is that because they are so small they have trouble staying warm when it is cold or when there is a shortage of food, like the Sugar Glider they enter a state known as Torpor. This means that for short periods, their breathing slows down and the animal becomes unresponsive, the body temperature drops almost to that of its surroundings. This state is not to be mistaken for hibernation which is for much longer periods and is not known to occur in Marsupials. The fur is grey/brown above with light cream to white abdomen.
Like all gliders they have a skin fold known as the gliding membrane, in Feathertails this membrane extends from the elbow to the knee. Fringed with long hair along the edge, the body surface is increased. When stretched out, the glider can float long distances, like a falling leaf. It is at home in the trees, feeding on insects, pollen and nectar it launches itself into the air when it needs to get from one tree to the next.
To become airborne, they hurl themselves from the tree with legs outstretched; the flap of skin between front and back feet extending like a parachute. The flattened tail helps this tiny possum to glide, steer, brake and anchor itself on landing.
The feet resemble that of a frog except with fur, and the large pads on the toes which have serrated groves underneath allow them to climb just about anything. In fact many sweat glands creating moisture on the foot pads allow this tiny Glider the surface tension like mini suction cups to climb even vertical panes of glass…
They are found throughout Eastern Australia from South Aust. through to far north Queensland.
Although small tree hollows are preferred nest sites, these gliders will build their nests in anything from abandoned bird’s nests to banana bags and line the nest with leaves, feathers and shredded bark. The nest is 6-8cm spherical and closed. Usual nesting places include palms, stag horn and tree ferns.
Feathertail gliders live in communal groups of up to 30, and the breeding cycle is all year round in the Northern parts and spring, summer to late winter in the South.
The female has four teats but rarely carries more than three young at a time and can fall pregnant whilst still carrying young in the pouch.
Feathertail gliders have a life expectancy of 4 years in the wild. Both sexes are similar in size and appearance with the obvious difference being the pouch in the female.