The feathertail glider is a tiny gliding marsupial and the smallest in the world. It is the size of a small mouse growing to a maximum of 80mm and a weight of only 15g. Its unique tail resembles a feather, with stiff, tiny hairs horizontal on each side of the tail. They are an elusive species which spend most of their life high up in the tops of trees (usually greater than 15m from the ground). It has a gliding membrane which extends from the elbow to the knee. Even though this species is small it can glide up to 25m in a single glide! They are a social animal living in groups of up to 30 individuals, this helps them maintain body temperature and stay warm. They will curl up together in tree hollows lined with soft nesting material during the day and being nocturnal they will venture from their hollow at night to feed. Their natural predators include kookaburras, owls, bats, snakes and the antechinus. The scientific name for this species means pygmy acrobat! The Feathertail glider can run up smooth bark eucalypt species and even run up a plane of glass. These gliders have been found nesting in meter boxes, telephone boxes and even in the roof and walls of houses! This is because these places are so warm!
Feathertail gliders occur down the east coast of Australia. They are found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and some parts of South Australia. They are found in most bushlands and survival is increased in areas with tall trees. They are common but are hard to see because they spend so much time in the tops of tall trees. They live in all types of tree habitats including wet, dry and open forests and rainforests.
These glider’s diet includes insects, pollen, seeds and nectar. Their long, brushy tongues help maximise the pollen and nectar extracted from flowers. Pollen will often attach to their fur during feeding and this will later be consumed once back in the safety of their hollow or nest.
Breeding season starts in June and finishes in January. They give birth to up to 4 young and will usually have 2 litters a year. Northern populations, however, can breed year-round. Females breed with several males and litters can be sired by different fathers. Females will look after other female’s young if they do not have young of their own which increases the young’s chance of survival. Their nests are spherical and are mostly made up of eucalypt and acacia leaves. Females can breed at 8 months of age with males not reaching sexual maturity until 12 months. These gliders can live up to 8 years!