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The squirrel that would be a bird

Our September 2021 speaker’s subject matter —”the bird of mammals”/ “the squirrel that would be a bird” — is one you won’t want to miss.

Sasha Newar tags herself as “flying squirrel girl” on Twitter. Stated more formally, she is a Ph.D candidate at Trent University where she is studying the intersection of mammalian ecology and bioacoustics. On September 8, Newar will shine a light on flying squirrels, the only nocturnal squirrels, that commonly use high-frequency acoustic signals that are so high pitched they are not audible to the human ear.

Ontario is home to two species of these gliding rodents: the northern and southern flying squirrel. You may have never seen one, or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one on a bird feeder after dark, but flying squirrels are actually common throughout the old-growth forests of much of North America, notes Newar. She will discuss her personal work on the ultrasonic communication of both species and how bat recorders can be used to study these elusive gliders.

Their nocturnal nature makes them elusive to the average naturalist, not to mention they can glide up to 9 m/s to escape their predators, she adds. That converts to 20 miles per hour!

One of our two species inhabits deciduous forests where they can find seeds and nuts, while the other prefers coniferous forests and feeds primarily on fungi. Can you identify which is which?

Southern flying squirrels are displacing northern flyers at an alarming rate, Newar reports, a concern for the forests they inhabit.

Southern Flying Squirrel © Michael Runtz