Thursday, May 12, 2011

New to W.C. - Flying Squirrel Boxes

Tom preparing for a nest box installation in the Nature Preserve Wednesday at lunchtime.

While the spring warblers sang from the treetops overhead, West Campus Education Coordinator, Tom Parlapiano and I endeavored to anchor three more nest boxes on campus. This time in the hardwood bottomlands of the Oyster River, and this time, built for flying squirrels.

Flying squirrels are cavity nesters, choosing deserted woodpecker holes or other hollowed tree cavities. They are surprisingly common in suburban settings, and will also nest in buildings and bird boxes.

Connecticut has two species of flying squirrel, the northern (Glaucomys sabrinus), and southern, (Glaucomys volans). The southern flying squirrel prefers a habitat of mixed woodlands, particularly hardwoods, such as the hickories, beeches and maples along our Oyster River. The northern prefers coniferous or mixed deciduous-coniferous woodlands.

The entrance hole is sited to avoid prevailing winds, and you'll notice it's on the side of the box - since the squirrel will not land on the box itself, but on the opposite side of the tree then scamper around to the box. This is likely a maneuver for avoiding predators that may have detected them during the glide.

The newest "Curator's Choice" exhibit at the Peabody is all about gliding mammals - it's located in the main entry lobby of the museum. In addition to information about the structures and mechanics of gliding, there are several specimens on display, representing the diversity of mammals which have developed the ability to glide.

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