Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, March 30, 2009

Feathertail Glider at Dalmeny, NSW

This looks like a mouse, and is about the same size, but that is where the resemblance ends. It is a tiny native marsupial, a Feathertail Glider. It is related to the much more familiar native animals, such as Brush-tailed Possums (see below) and the less-familiar large Gliders, such as the Yellow-bellied Glider (which is as long as a Cat) or the photogenic (mid-sized) Sugar Glider.This tiny creature rejoices in the name of Acrobates pygmaeus. Sort of says it all, doesn't it?

This is the report from my brother Brendan, who captured these images and sent them to me.
  • "The photos (of the Feathertail Glider) and the Daddy Long Legs are in our main room just near our bedroom door.
  • "We have had hassles with them nesting in our roof cavity. They were getting in at the end of the barrel vault and "holing up" in their beautifully insulated residence. Trouble was that occasionally they would get along the roof past the (venting) fans and then they could and did glide down and get trapped in the house. Before we moved down here there was no escape and no food or water. So four of them ended up in the CSIRO (wildlife) collection at Gungahlin (i.e., having died of natural causes, trapped in an empty house, Brendan took the "specimens" to CSIRO "Wildlife" in Canberra).
  • "There was another occasion when Beth was here on her own and one para-glided down onto the bed. I got a phone call saying "What do I do? I don't like this at all." She also said some other things too. Response was: "Open the bloody doors" . . . . . . . that worked.
  • "About two weeks ago I had the ends of the roof barrel vault closed off properly.
  • "Yesterday Beth was cleaning the gutters of leaves and then she noticed one (of these Gliders) clinging to the side of the house near the bridge. She had probably swept it out with some leaves. About 10pm I put some food out for the possums and left the door open while I was out there. Then we found this little fellow sitting on top of the blind (just above the door) from the patio. He (or she - I did not ask***) was spooked by the flash and went to the corner, where I got the Daddy Long Legs photos. It then went up the shadow-line rebate to the internal barrel vault and disappeared into the roof cavity. When it was spooked I was expecting it to glide out of trouble, and did not even consider that it could or would climb up the shadow-line where wall meets ceiling.
  • "It poked it's head out when the house went dark, but retreated again when I used a torch. So we left the front and back sliding doors open, but not enough for the Brush-tails and went to bed. I figure it got out OK."
That sounds like a happy ending to this story, to me (Denis).

Here is Brendan's Feathertail Glider running along the very top of the wall.
It did not like being "flashed" with Brendan's Camera, so it tried to hide in the corner of the room. Note the Daddy Long Legs spider as a "scale" reference point. It is a tiny little Marsupial. It is hunched up in this pose, making it appear even smaller than it is. The tip of the tail is seemingly "V-shaped". That is because of the stiff hairs on either side of the tail (from which it gets its common name). This is part of this animal's aerodynamic structure.Remember that this animal is a "glider". As it leaps from high points, it spreads the fine skin between its front and back legs, which acts much like a paraglider. (See this image of a Sugar Glider "in the air", to get the idea of how they can glide through the air, covering a considerable distance.) The fringes on the tail also helps give this tiny creature a little extra "lift" when it is in the air.
Here is the best of Brendan's images of the Feathertail Glider.
You can clearly see the white line between the back and the abdomen.
That is the edge of the flap of skin which it uses when gliding.
The bulge under the tail, behind the back leg, reveals the answer to Brendan's unasked question***. It is clearly a male.

Here is a photo of a pair of Brush-tailed Possums, on my roof gutter, for size comparison. The large male, on the left, is roughly the size of a domestic Cat.


mick said...

A fascinating story and great photos to go with it - but I wouldn't like it landing on my bed at night either!

Snail said...

They are darling little things. (Apart from landing on the bed when you're not expecting it!) It must be quite difficult keeping them out of the house. Possums of all types are pretty resourceful.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick and "Snail"
The consensus is that bedrooms ought be Glider-free zones! Fair enough.
But, Snail is right, they can be determined and resourceful little creatures, obviously.

Shannon said...

These little creatures are so beautiful.... My cats have unfortunately caught 3 of them since we moved here (2 yrs ago) and i was wondering where they lived. Now i see that they can live in the roof cavities, i'm wondering if that's what is in ours! The coincidence of my cats catching such animals, and in the house too, makes me think they may come inside from the roof! We've had noises up there for a while now, and took it for mice, for which we were going to put baits up this weekend! Now i will be stopping hubby doing so, and leave the critters be.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Shannon
Thanks for the comment.
Best of luck. My brother tells me they are really tiny and he has tried to block up the external access points to the roof cavity, but that is actually hard to do with such tiny and resourceful creatures.
Best wishes.