This little chap is a feathertail glider, a type of possum.  They are about the size of a mouse and are reputed to be the smallest marsupial in the world.  They are relatively common in the forests of eastern Australia, right from Victoria through to Queensland, and have also been reported in South Australia and even in the west.

They are called “gliders” because they have a membrane between their hind and fore legs and can use it like a parachute to glide between the tall trees where they live.  The tail has hairs on it, looks a bit like a bird feather (hence the name “feathertail”) and is used to control the direction of the glide and in landing.

They are rather omnivorous and eat nectar (like the much bigger sugar glider), seeds, insects and pollen.  The one shown here was on top of one of the Cassinia species that are part of the under storey of a little forest near the Tinderry Nature Reserve and was probably searching for insects that swarm around at night.

Feathertails are very nocturnal and won’t come out until it is really dark.  They normally inhabit the tops of tall trees and so are rarely seen.  They can move around in groups, and large mobs of up to 40 individuals have been seen.  You may catch sight of them flying between the tops of trees on a moonlit night.  Like other possums, they form nests from leaves and the young live and suckle in the mother’s pouch.  The average life span appears to be about four years.

They are not listed as an endangered species, but the greatest threat to their survival is habitat destruction, as they depend upon the forest.  Lesser threats are predators, particularly currawongs, kookaburras, foxes and feral cats (they are just mouse size).

If you want to encourage these little guys on to your property, the clue is the forests, as they prefer trees tall enough to get away from predators. You need a stand of tall trees and preferably a corridor to a natural forest.  In cold weather they can become almost catatonic and appear to be hibernating (this is not true hibernation) and you may find them on the ground among fallen timber or in wood heaps.  If you find one, they are best taken back to the forest