In North America, two distinct species of flying squirrels, northern and southern, live in various parts of the country. Each species has a membrane between their legs that allows them to glide through the air from tree to tree. Being nocturnal rodents, their activities are rarely observed by people.
Although they are called flying squirrels, in reality, these squirrels glide in the air, rather than fly like a bird. While in the air, the squirrels guide their flight path using their legs. Their tail serves as a landing brake. Flying squirrels are capable of gliding in the air at great distances of up to 150 feet. Northern and southern flying squirrels are identified by the color of their belly fur. Northern flying squirrels have a white belly with gray patches at the bottom. Southern flying squirrels have all white bellies. Another distinctive difference between the two species is that Northern flying squirrels are 2 inches larger than their southern counterparts. In general, flying squirrels are omnivores, eating a diet consisting of nuts, seeds, fruit and insects. Southern flying squirrels also eat birds, eggs and carrion.
Like other squirrels, flying squirrels live in forests and woodlands, nesting in the holes of trees, abandoned bird's nests and other cozy spots. They are social animals and are known to den with one another during cold and wet weather seasons. Their natural predators are hawks, owls, snakes and mammals that climb trees.
Flying squirrels mate during the winter and the typical gestation period is 40 days. Newborn flying squirrels are born blind but are capable of foraging alone by six weeks of age.