Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Great Nest Box Cleanout (Part 3)

And then there is the Grand Prize for providing next boxes – a Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans). We haven’t found them in nest boxes in recent years. When we moved here some 24 years ago, we set up Eastern Bluebird nest boxes around the open field. For the first year or two we routinely found flying squirrels in a nest box at the edge of the woods near the road. Often several flying squirrels over-wintered in a single nest box.

This nest box and it was half full of grass bedding with no sign that it had been used as a birds nest.

W poked the bedding gently and it moved. A squirrel face peered out from the bedding; this was the best photo I could get. This squirrel didn’t really want to move. The problem is that when they do decide to come out, they are planning to leave a very high speed up the tree. I did manage to get a shot – but just of the nose – before it exited stage upward.

We thought the squirrel might return but that it would leave when the weather warmed up. So we wanted to try and get more photos. In the meantime I did some research and learned that the squirrels breed in January-February and it was possible that the squirrel had been reluctant to leave the box because she had young. Indeed she had returned…

Here she is before she exited the next box.

And there were young squirrels in the nest; three of them. They were covered with fur and their eyes open – which means they are at least 3-4 weeks old. It won’t be too long before they are ready to leave the nest.

We thought the mother had scampered up to the top of the tree. When we went around the other side of the tree, we couldn’t see her and thought she had gone up to the top of the tree. However, there she was, about 9-10 feet above the ground.

It is encouraging to know that flying squirrels are still breeding in this area since we haven’t seen them for many years.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- University of Georgia Natural History Museum: Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)

- Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)

Related posts:

- The Great 2010 Nest Box Clean Out (Part 1)

- The Great Nest Box Clean Out (Part 2)


Anonymous said...

Fascinating to see the little mother up close like that. Good thing you had poked the grass! I've never seen a flying squirrel - we don't have them in Manhattan, although I don't know about the other NYC boroughs. And she just returns to her young after the disturbance? Hope you get bluebirds, too.

JSK said...

You may have this flying squirrel in NYC - according to the range map at It's nocturnal. The only way we knew we had them was because they took up residence in the nest boxes.

Yes, she comes back. That was the interesting thing about finding her only 8-10 feet above the ground when we looked for her in the tree. She only went 4-5 feet above the nest box; she wasn't abandoning them. She will leave them after a couple of months.

We do get bluebirds: they used 4-5 nest boxes last year.

Larry said...

Interesting posts on the nest box clean outs Joan.

I am a county coordinator for the California Bluebird Recovery Program (CBRP) and a Corporate Member of the North American Bluebird Society (NABS) and we encourage folks to monitor nest boxes all season long.

You can find the monitoring guide from CBRP here and the one from NABS here.

There are several reasons to monitor the boxes to help the cavity nesting bird population through the season.

Thanks for the great shots of the flying squirrels! We don't have these in California but they sure are cool looking creatures.

Gunnar Engblom said...

When I was a kid, Flying Squirrels were unreal. I thought they were only in cartoons. I'd love to see one in real life.

JSK said...

Thanks for these links Larry.

It's interesting that the suggestion is to inspect the boxes so regularly. I'd be concerned about disturbing them too much especially since we have to remove screws from the front panels. Seems this would be easier if we had a latch closures.

We know we have way too many boxes for bluebirds alone so haven't worried about other birds - or flying squirrels - using some of the boxes.

Seems like most years - starting when we moved here in 1986 - we've had more young bluebirds than you could shake a stick at. We've been really fortunate!

JSK said...

BTW Larry, I love the profiles of the nest materials in the NABS link. Do you think they should add a profile for the flying squirrel? :-)

JSK said...

Hi Gunnar
These are almost unreal for us too. We've been really lucky to have resident flying squirrels but we don't see them too often. It's a real treat when we do.