Sugar Glider

Sugar Glider

Lesser flying phalanger, Lesser flying squirrel, Lesser glider, Short-headed flying phalanger

Petaurus breviceps
Population size
Life Span
4-14 years
g oz 
cm inch 

The Sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) is a small arboreal gliding possum that belongs to the marsupial infraclass. It is so called due to loving sweet food such as sugar and honey, while the word 'glider' refers to their gliding habit when moving between trees. Sugar gliders have very similar habits and appearance to the flying squirrel, despite not being closely related - an example of convergent evolution. The scientific name of these animals translates from Latin as "short-headed rope-dancer", a reference to their canopy acrobatics.


The Sugar glider has a squirrel-like body with a long, partially (weakly) prehensile tail. The fur coat is thick, soft, and is usually blue-grey; although some have been known to be yellow, tan, or (rarely) albino. A black stripe is seen from its nose to midway on its back. Its belly, throat, and chest are cream in color. Males have four scent glands, located on the forehead, chest, and two paracloacal that are used for marking group members and territory. Scent glands on the head and chest of males appear as bald spots. Females also have a paracloacal scent gland and a scent gland in the pouch but do not have scent glands on the chest or forehead. The males of this species are typically larger than the females.




Sugar gliders occur in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and surrounding islands as well as in northern and eastern parts of mainland Australia. They are able to live in a wide variety of habitats such as plantations, rural gardens, roadside areas as well as rainforest, eucalypt forest, and woodland.

Sugar Glider habitat map

Climate zones

Sugar Glider habitat map
Sugar Glider
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Habits and Lifestyle

These nocturnal animals spend their daytime hours in hollows, which are lined with leaves. They transfer materials to these nests, coiled in their tails. They are highly social and active animals, forming groups, which typically consist of 7 or more adult individuals and their offspring. In order to keep warm and conserve heat in cold weather, these animals may huddle together or, occasionally, enter short periods of torpor. Group members do not fight each other, but are known to display threatening behavior. Each group of Sugar gliders has a dominant male, which is the leader of the group. In order to identify members of the group, he uses a communication system of scent-marking. The dominant male also scent-marks and fiercely defends the territory against intruders. Individuals within the group recognize each other by group scent. Outsiders, which do not belong to the group, are identified due to not sharing the group scent. If such cases do occur, intruders are usually violently attacked by the group members.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

These omnivorous animals particularly favor the sweet sap of the eucalyptus tree, supplementing their diet with pollen, nectar, insects, and their larvae, arachnids as well as small vertebrates.

Mating Habits

year-round in the North, peaks in June-November in the South
16 days
1-2 joeys
7-10 months

Sugar gliders are generally considered to be polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. Populations in the northern parts of their range breed year-round. In the south, sugar gliders breed with a peak period, occurring from June to November, when insects, upon which they feed, are most abundant. The gestation period lasts for 16 days, yielding 1-2 babies. Immediately after birth, the offspring of these marsupials climb into the pouch of their mother, where they continue to grow for around 40 days. They begin coming out of the pouch at 60-70 days. At 111 days old, young leave the nest, after which they usually ride the back of their mother, accompanying her when she forages. And finally, when the young reach independence at 7-10 months old, the female leaves them to give birth to another litter. Males of this species are reproductively mature by 1 year old, whereas females are able to produce offspring at 8-15 months old.


Population threats

Although there are no notable threats to the population of Sugar gliders, the animals are potentially threatened by bushfires as well as habitat destruction as a result of land clearing for agriculture.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Sugar glider is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Numbers of their population are stable, and the species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • When a Sugar glider is angry, it will warn the opponent by leaning back and emitting a chattering sound, which is quite similar to that, produced by a small, yapping dog. If the attempt was unsuccessful, the animal will take drastic measures, striking the opponent with full force.
  • When moving between trees, this animal uses its gliding membrane, found between its wrists and ankles. When flying, the animal is able to control and change the size and shape of the membrane by changing the position of its limbs. Meanwhile, the tail helps them manage the flight, acting as a rudder.
  • Sugar gliders are able to glide up to 45 meters at a time. When finishing the glide, they use their sharp claws to cling to nearby branches.
  • In order to identify group members, males in the group use their special scent glands, found on their forehead and chest, to mark all members of their group.
  • On their hind limbs, Sugar gliders have grooming combs, made up of two webbed toes.
  • Anklebones of these animals are extremely flexible, rotating up to 180 degrees, due to which they can climb down vertical tree trunks head first.
  • Females of this species are able to simultaneously produce two types of milk in each of their nipples, intended for two joeys of different ages. Each type of milk has its own unique composition, which is suitable for a joey of a certain age.
  • Sugar gliders are known to use a wide variety of vocalizations to communicate with conspecifics. They give out a clicking sound, which resembles that of a rusty chainsaw. Moreover, these marsupials can even bark like small dogs, typically around a full moon.

Coloring Pages


1. Sugar Glider Wikipedia article -
2. Sugar Glider on The IUCN Red List site -

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