Sugar Glider Patrick Kavanagh/Flickr

Sugar Glider

Petaurus breviceps

Did You Know?

  • There are seven recognised subspecies of the sugar glider
  • Adult sugar gliders weigh between 120 grams and 160 grams, but babies only weigh 0.19 grams!
  • Dominant males mark other clan or family members and the territory around their nests with secretions from scent glands on their chest
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Grey soft fur, with a white belly and a black stripe that runs from its nose, over its head and along its back. It has a long bushy tail, the last quarter of which is black, often with a white tip. Its ears are large and hairless, and its large eyes are black.

Size

About 28 cm long (from nose to tip of tail).

Behaviour

Call

Highly vocal with a range of vocalisations for different occasions, including a shrill yapping when a predator is nearby, a sharp shriek when fighting, and a gurgling chatter when disturbed in its nest.

Diet

Floral nectar, acacia gum, eucalypt sap and insects. During spring and summer it eats mostly insects to provide the increased protein it needs to breed.

Movement

It spends its days in leafy nests in tree hollows, which often house up to seven individuals plus their young. It emerges from its nest at night to feed, moving between trees by gliding through the air for up to 50 metres, sometimes even 100 metres! It is able to glide because of a membrane (or flap of loose skin) which extends between its fifth finger and first toe. It leaps from a tree, spreads its limbs to expose the membrane and directs and maintains its glide by varying the curvature of the membrane and using its long bushy tail. Then it lands on all fours. It stays high up in the trees, moving quickly between the small branches, and rarely descends to the ground.

Breeding

Mating occurs in July and August, then two (or very rarely three) babies are born about 16 days later. The young remain in their mother's pouch for about 70 days, and then in the nest for a further 30 to 40 days. When they are about 110 days old, they begin to leave the nest to forage for food, usually with their mother or father. If conditions are favourable, there may be a second breeding season in the year.

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What to Observe

  • Presence

  • Courting/Mating

  • Young in mother’s pouch

Climate Adaptations

Climate change is predicted to bring more seasonal and less predictable rainfall in most areas which may influence the availability of flowers, nectar and perhaps even sap, all of which the Sugar Glider feeds on.

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When and Where

When To Look

  • From July through to October
  • Mating occurs in July and August
  • Young sugar gliders can be seen in their mother’s pouch from August to October
  • Look at night, when they emerge from their nests to feed

Where To Look

  • Throughout northern and eastern Australia including northern Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and south-eastern South Australia
  • In forests and woodlands, particularly where there are eucalypts and the larger species of wattle
  • Look high up between trees and branches or for nests in the hollows of old trees
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What Else?

Similar Species

Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) is about twice as big with a bushier tail, a longer and pointier face, longer and narrower ears, and more distinct facial markings. The Squirrel Glider is also less vocal than the Sugar Glider.

Mahogany Glider (Petaurus gracilis) is much larger (about 60 cm long), has a buff-coloured belly and generally shorter hair on its tail.