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Do Sugar Gliders Fly? (And How Do They Glide?)

Do Sugar Gliders Fly? (And How Do They Glide?)

The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a sugar glider. Now, you may be looking into owning this particularly adorable marsupial.

Nevertheless, before going forward with your plan, it’s best to educate yourself more about the exotic Australian-Indonesian pet.

The first question on your mind could be, “Do sugar gliders fly?” Well, they don’t. You may have seen a couple of videos of them seemingly flying from one place to another, but they’re actually gliding.

Stick around for more information on the flying capabilities of sugar gliders and why they make for wonderful pets.

Can Sugar Gliders Fly?

At first glance, sugar gliders resemble flying squirrels. The main contrast between the two mammals is that the latter is a rodent, while the prior is a marsupial.

Another difference is that sugar gliders are nocturnal and flying squirrels are diurnal. Apart from that, their gliding ability is similar.

To clarify, sugar gliders can’t fly like birds or bats. Instead, they only glide.

That doesn’t mean they can’t travel a large distance without touching the ground. Sugar gliders can glide around 165 feet.

In other words, they can glide across the width of a football field.

Having said that, ever since sugar gliders have been domesticated, they’ve become popular pets. The main concern some potential pet owners may have is whether they’ll have enough space for the marsupial to spread its little wings.

That’s why you need to assess the living area that you’ll provide for the sugar glider before buying it.

How Do Sugar Gliders Glide?

Now that you know sugar gliders glide, rather than fly, you could be wondering how they do it. Well, their gliding ability is mostly owed to their patagium.

The patagium is the thin skin you see between a sugar glider’s arms and legs. Simply put, it’s their wings.

These patagia are connected from the sugar glider’s fifth forefinger to the back of their ankle. The extra skin isn’t the only gliding tool these animals use to support their flight.

Their furry tails are also used to coordinate the sugar glider’s glide direction. Put differently, it’s like the glider’s steering wheel.

In addition to this, sugar gliders also lift their left or right arm and leg, whenever they want to take a different direction.

That being so, these marsupials are usually found in dense forests with lots of trees to leap from and to. These palm-sized mammals jump and stretch their patagia to create enough airfoil to glide.

Apart from that, designers have taken from sugar glider’s patagia flying mechanism and applied it to humans. We’re talking about the human flying jumpsuit.

It uses the same idea of flaps between our hands and feet to generate a lift. After enjoying the few minutes of skydiving with these man-made patagia, a parachute is then deployed so you can safely land.

Defining Airfoil

An airfoil is the secret behind the sugar glider’s gliding ability. It all comes down to the shape of the patagia.

The structure allows them to create an airlift. The airfoil shape needs to allow air to flow above and below the wing.

When the wind flows above, the glider speeds up. If gas increases in speed, the air pressure in the area over the wing decreases.

Meanwhile, the air under the airfoil remains the same. This makes the air pressure under the wing relatively higher than the one above it.

Afterward, this contact of pressure differences creates a force under the wing, which, in turn, causes lift.

This technical mechanism doesn’t only apply to sugar gliders. Airplanes, fans, windmills, and other man-made mechanical structures also use airfoils to move.

How Much Space do Sugar Gliders Need to Glide?

Natively found in forests of Indonesia, Australia, and Papua New Guinea, sugar gliders usually glide between trees.

As you can tell, they enjoy a large space, where they can freely leap. This may make it difficult to find the cage to keep the sugar glider in.

Nevertheless, a cage dimensioned at 36 inches tall, 24 inches deep, and 24 inches wide can suffice. You don’t want to leave the cage empty.

Sugar gliders enjoy movement, which is why you can consider placing a couple of obstacles and toys to entertain them. Don’t forget to get a hammock or bag to hand at the top since that’s where they’ll sleep, rest, and hide.

You’ll also want to free them from their cage every day so they don’t feel too confined. Sugar gliders tend to get lonely and depressed if they don’t have enough liberty.

If you’re considering purchasing a sugar glider, we highly recommend getting another one. They’re social creatures that can barely withstand being alone for too long.

Another characteristic worth considering is that they’re nocturnal. This makes them more active at night, when you may be asleep, for the most part.

That’s why another sugar glider is necessary. A male and a female would be the best gender pairing.

How to Train Sugar Gliders to Glide Toward Your Hand

If you own a sugar glider, then you know how worrying it can be when you take them out of its cage.

It’s crucial to provide your sugar glider with lots of space. On the other hand, leaving them out and about tends to be risky since they can escape.

The good news is that there’s a way to train your sugar glider to leap back to you. The first thing you’ll need is an attention-grabber.

You can optionally make a “tsk-tsk” sound, but it can get tiring and repetitive for you. Alternatively, you can purchase a training clicker, the same ones used for dog training.

Naturally, they’ll glance at you after you make some noise. All you have to do then is stick your hand out so they can land on it.

In addition to this, make sure that you’re in a small room to prevent any escape attempts from the glider.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that the training process will take some time and needs a lot of patience on your end. Even so, it’ll be worth it in the end.

Your main objective is to get one of the sugar gliders to jump toward you. Once one of them does so, the other will typically follow.

How to Bond with Your Sugar Glider

If you want to nail down the training, it helps to establish a strong bond with your sugar glider. The training would also work better if you purchase a young sugar glider.

Once you take the sugar glider home, you want it to become familiar with its surroundings. For the first two to three days, you can give the glider some treats and play with it.

One of the best ways you can let the sugar glider ease up to you is by placing your piece of clothing in its cage. That way, the sugar glider will lock your scent.

Generally speaking, the more you bond with the glider, the more they’ll trust and eventually jump to you.

Final Thoughts

Can sugar gliders fly? In short, they can’t. As their name suggests, they glide. They use their tail and skin flaps between their limbs called patagia to soar.

Their gliding skill isn’t exclusive to the marsupial, as other animals like flying squirrels can also glide their way through trees.

That being said, if you’re thinking of owning a sugar glider, make sure you can accommodate two of them with ample space.

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