top of page

Sugar Gliders


COMMON NAME: Sugar Gliders

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Petaurus breviceps

TYPE: Mammal


DIET: Omnivore. sap & gum of eucalyptus & acacia trees,

pollen, nectar, manna (a sugar deposit from trees sap),

honeydew (sugar secreted by sap-sucking insects),

and a wide variety of insects and spiders.


HEAD & BODY LENGTH: 5 to 12 inches

TAIL LENGTH: 6 to 9 inches

WEIGHT: 3 to 5 ounces

1. The sugar glider's main distinguishing feature is a soft membrane between its wrists and ankles called a patagium, which allows it to glide from tree to tree as though using a parachute. These “wrist-winged gliders” can float on air up to a distance nearly the width of a football field!

2. They are excellent “aviators,” thanks to their wide field of vision—and they can triangulate distances and glide ratios by bobbing their head before launch. Once airborne, they steer toward their target by tilting their hands and arms, adjusting the tension in their “wings,” and using their long, flat, bushy tail as a rudder.

3. While named for their penchant for eating forest sweets like acacia gum, eucalyptus sap, and flower nectar, sugar gliders are actually omnivorous opportunistic feeders, consuming both plant and animal matter. The little sugar glider’s menu choice has a dark side, though. Their appetite for the endangered swift parrot’s nestlings in Tasmania is a grave threat to the bird’s survival there.

4. Sugar gliders are lightweights! A sugar glider weighs 3 to 5 ounces, about as much as a baseball, and sports short, gray fur, not unlike that of a koala. The belly fur is creamy white. It has dark rings around its big, black eyes, and a charcoal stripe running down the center of its face to its pink nose.

5. Its rudder-like tail is nearly as long as its 6-inch body and is somewhat prehensile, and is used to carry leaves to its cozy nest. The tail cannot support the sugar glider's body weight. In a healthy sugar glider, the tail is often 1.5 times as long as its body. The sugar glider has five digits on each foot, including a handy opposable toe on its hind feet that allows it a firm grip on branches or a tree trunk. They use their limbs, tail, and torso to control their “flight,” and gracefully land with all four feet splayed to grab the tree.

6. Nice nest. Sugar gliders inhabit wooded areas with open forest. They are arboreal, finding safety, shelter, and food above the ground. They shelter by day in cozy leaf nests constructed in tree hollows. They mark and protect their territory, which can include over two acres of forested land.

7. Sugar gliders are nocturnal, snoozing through the day until night falls, then they begin using their leap-glide-grab means of getting food. During periods of frigid cold or unavailable food, sugar gliders may lapse into torpor for up to 16 hours per day to conserve energy. Thus, they are well adapted to deal with North Carolina's weather swings!

8. Sugar gliders definitely have sweet tooths, but they like to balance it out. Sugar gliders are opportunistic omnivores. Their diet that changes with the seasons. They are all about that sugary nectar, sap, and tree gums, they like to spice it up with lizards and small birds. In Tasmania, their penchant for swift parrot nestlings has landed this mammal on the endangered species list!

9. Sugar gliders have superpowers against predators. This pint-sized nocturnal mammal can be preyed upon by owls and snakes, so it makes full use of its gliding capabilities, leaping from tree to tree for safety.

10. Sugar gliders communicate using a wide variety of yapping, barking, buzzing, droning, hissing, and screaming sounds. One is called “crabbing,” which they make when frightened, threatened, or woken from a nap. They make a barking noise when communicating with other gliders, or to visitors to Liberty Acres here in North Carolina. A sugar glider may hiss, and the duration and context of the call mean different things, like acknowledging another glider or telling it to get out of the way. When contented, the glider may make a purring sound, which is softer than a cat’s purr.
11. Sugar gliders are squirrel-sized arboreal marsupials that inhabit the forests of Australia and New Guinea. Sugar gliders are largely nocturnal and rarely come to the ground, finding both shelter and food in the trees.


12. Sugar gliders nest in groups of up to seven adult males and females and their young, probably all related and descended from an original colonizing pair. Female sugar gliders have a pouch containing four teats, which a mother uses to raise one or two joeys. These highly social creatures live in trees, rarely touching the ground, and they groom each other—which not only keeps their fur clean, but also helps solidify relationships.


bottom of page