Animals That You Didn’t Know Could Fly


While birds are one of the only species alive that can use powered flight, several animals employ other methods of flight to glide, parachute, and fall through the skies over great distances. Some species even use a method of flight called ballooning, which can take them pretty far. It might not be as cool as flying like a bird, but it’s still pretty amazing!

Flying Squirrels

While the only mammal that can use powered flight is the bat, several mammalian species use gliding methods of flight. The most well-known gliding mammal is the flying squirrel

There are over 40 species of flying squirrels found throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. They live in all types of climates and regions. The North American varieties prefer mountainous areas where the red spruce grows. 

Flying squirrels have a membrane that starts at the wrist, runs along the sides of their bodies, and ends at their ankles. To glide, they take a running start and leap from trees. The longest glide ever recorded was 660 feet. That’s over two football fields!

If that’s not marvelous enough for you, there’s something else you might not know about flying squirrels. They glow pink under UV light. Scientists aren’t sure why flying squirrels fluoresce, but they have even found century-old museum specimens glowing under a black light.

Flying Mice

In addition to the flying squirrel, there are several other species of flying rodents, including flying mice and scaly-tailed squirrels. Flying mice aren’t mice, and they don’t fly. They are gliders like flying squirrels. Also known as pygmy scaly-tailed squirrels, flying mice are native to the tropical forests of central Africa. 

Anomalures are a larger, separate species of scaly-tailed squirrels. Like flying squirrels, they have membranes that help them glide, and anomalures can also control their glides with their tails. 

Sugar Gliders

Sugar gliders are another commonly known flying animal. Sugar gliders are one of several wrist-winged gliders, which are marsupials closely related to the opossum. They can glide up to about 150 feet.

Sugar gliders are native to Australia, Tasmania, and southern Asia. They live in groups of about ten adult sugar gliders and like to nest in hollow trees. They are called sugar gliders because they eat sweet fruits.

The greater glider and a species of feather-tailed possums are two other marsupial gliders. The feathertail glider is the smallest mammalian glider, about the same size as a tiny mouse.

Flying Fish

Many people have heard of flying fish, but did you know there are over 50 species of flying fish? They mainly belong to the Exocoetidae family and can get up to about 18” in length. 

Flying fish are divided into two-winged and four-winged varieties. To fly, these fish catch the updraft on a wave. They have been recorded gliding as long as 45 seconds and usually go about 160 feet. 

The flight times or distances of flying fish might not seem impressive compared to flying squirrels, but they can reach speeds of 40 mph, making this flying animal one of the best gliders. Flying fish glide just as well as any bird, and some scientists think that flying fish are on an evolutionary path to flying.

Flying Squid

“Flying squid” sounds a little far-fetched, but several species of squid can propel themselves out of the water, either for travel or to escape predators. The Pacific flying squid, also known as the Japanese flying squid, leaps out of the water by expelling water out of its funnel. The thrust created by this expulsion propels them into the air, which makes them the only animal species to use airborne jet propulsion.

Paradise Tree Snakes

Several species of reptiles can glide, and one of the most adept is the paradise tree snake. This species is a master of physics, and after employing a dexterous takeoff method, it can glide for about 300 feet by flattening its body and using undulating motions. What’s even more incredible is that it can make a 90-degree turn mid-flight.

Learn More About Flying Animals

These are only a few of the many animal species that can fly. Unlike birds, these animals don’t use powered flight to stay in the air for long periods. Instead, they employ various fascinating techniques to travel through the air.