Topic outline

    • Tippitty, the Flying Squirrel

      About the passage

      A.  Read to understand

      1.   Find out from the passage about the following.

               a.   the colour of Tippitty’s fur

      Ans. chestnut red


               b.   the length of Tippitty’s tail

      Ans. Two feet


               c.   Any five things that made up Tippitty’s diet.

      Ans. Puddings, stewed fruit, walnut, milk and custard


               d.   The breeds of Tippitty’s best friends

      Ans. Don, a field spaniel, and Brook, a large shaggy Tibetan sheep dog

      2.   Answer the following questions.

               a.   Describe Tippitty’s little house.

      Ans. She lived in a little box with two partitions; the inner one-her bedroom-was fitted with a little nest of feathers and cotton wool, and a tiny door led from it into the bigger sitting room, where she also dined.


               b.   What was her toilet routine?

      Ans. Tippitty was very particular about her toilet routine. She would sit erect and carefully get to work both her little hands. Beginning with the tip of her nose, she would gradually work over the whole of her face and head. The tail would be her last, but by no means her least, care.


               c.   Which theory did the writer disprove with the help of Tippitty?

      Ans. The Himalayan nutcracker (Nucifraga hemispila) had been credited with the holes one frequently found in walnuts in the Himalayas. The writer has disproved this theory with the help of Tippitty.


               d.   Why did the writer find Tippitty’s nocturnal nature to be a drawback?

      Ans. The writer found Tippitty’s nocturnal nature to be a drawback because it was most lively when it was time for ordinary people to be in bed.


               e.   Why would Tippitty sometimes ‘sneeze and splutter’ while drinking milk?

      Ans. Tippitty was much too ladylike to make any such fuss over her milk. She was usually in rather a hurry for it, and consequently more of her face went into the saucer than was intended by nature, with the result that a certain amount of liquid went up her nose and made Tippitty sneeze and splutter.


               f.    What would Tippitty do when she felt there was trouble nearby?

      Ans. Trippitty would make use of Brock’s tail as hiding place when she felt there was trouble nearby.


               g.   What would she do when she became tired during the afternoon walks?

      Ans. When she became tired during the afternoon walks she would make for the writer’s leg and be up on his shoulder or if Brock or Don happened to be at hand, she would spring on to one of their backs and get a free ride.


               h.   What would she generally do after sunset? What effect did a good dinner have on her?

      Ans. Tippitty was nocturnal and woke up a little after sunset if left to herself. Provided she did not get a good dinner, she would be prepared to play and look about for odds and ends to nibble on all night through. A good dinner had the effect of making her sleepy, too.

      B.  Read to infer

      1.   Explain the phrase, ‘would have done credit to an animal ten times her size’.

      Ans. Her growl was so alarming that it was equivalent to the growl of an animal ten times bigger than her in size.


      2.   Why was it in the writer’s interest to provide Tippitty with a good dinner?

      Ans. It was in the writer’s interest to provide Tippitty with a good dinner because Tippitty would invariably overeat and that meant sleeping solidly till the early hours of the morning. This way writer would also get good night sleep.


      3.   Give two examples from the passage to show that Tippitty was not very choosy when it came to eating.

      Ans. 1. She would make her way to the extreme end of a branch and nibble off the young leaves.

             2. She was quite happy on any tree or shrub and found something to eat on all.


      4. How do we know that Tippitty wasn’t too keen to accompany the writer on his afternoon strolls?

      Ans. Tippitty accompanied the writer and the dogs on an afternoon stroll, after being ruthlessly pulled out of her box. This shows that Tippitty wasn’t too keen to accompany the writer on his afternoon strolls.


      5. Why would Tippitty get tied up before meals? How did this practice ultimately lead to her death?

      Ans. Tippitty got tied up before meals because sometimes while jumping here and there, her tail may pass through the soup and spoil the taste. She had been tied up just before dinner, but somehow the end of the chain had got unfastened from the leg of the chair. She hopped about on the boards of the verandah and dragged her chain behind her. There was a fox nearby who had poor Tippitty in its relentless jaws.

      C.  Discuss

      1. Look up the internet to find out about the physical features, adaptation, and other interesting facts related to flying squirrels. Share the collected information in class.

          You may find this web page to be helpful:

      Ans. Identification

          A southern flying squirrel is quite small, 1/3 the size of a gray squirrel, adults are usually 9-11" long including the tail, and weigh between 2-4oz. They are a grayish brown with a white belly and have a black ring around their large black eyes. A fold of skin stretches from the wrist of each front leg to the ankle of each rear leg.


          The membrane, called a patagium, is used by flying squirrels to glide from tree to tree. Although the southern flying squirrel can glide 150 ft or more from a height of 60 ft. Glides up to 240 feet have been recorded. They can easily turn at right angles and control direction of their glide by tensing and turning their legs and body, and flapping their tail.


          Active all year round, the southern flying squirrel will form small groups in the winter and share a common nest to keep warm. Numbers as many as 50 individuals have been found in one nest in winter.  The southern flying squirrel is nocturnal, active primarily at night… therefore not often seen by people. In some areas, the southern flying squirrel may actually outnumber the more conspicuous and familiar gray squirrel.  They eat nuts (acorns, hickory, etc.), seeds, berries, and insects. They will also eat bird eggs, bird nestlings, insects and occasionally dead mice.  Their favorite nuts are pecans. 


          The Southern Flying Squirrel breeds in spring and early summer, with the females breeding with different males each time.  They have up to two litters of 2-7 young produced following a 40 day gestation period.


          The young produce squeaks which include ultrasonic components. The parents leave their young 65 days after they are born and the young become fully independent at 120 days of age.  Their lifespan averages 6 years in the wild.

          Southern flying squirrels show substantial homing abilities and will detect pheromones in previous years’ nest even after it has been moved up to 40,000 square meters from females, and double that for males.  Predators include owls, hawks, and raccoons.


          Scratching noises in attic, eaves or soffits, visual confirmation of squirrels on the roof or in attic, or inside the home through holes or gaps are common ways to detect a flying squirrel problem.  It is their small size that make them rather difficult to control. Flyers only need 1/2 inch hole to enter a building in contrast to a gray squirrel which needs 1 1/2 inches.  The exclusion involves sealing up any holes larger than a thumbnail and any linear crack wider than a pinky finger along all areas above 6” off the ground.  This is what a 1/2” hole looks like:


          Health Risks

          As with all attic dwellers, flying squirrels have a latrine area which can create airborne health hazards including viruses cased by drayed rodent feces. Flying squirrels have been implicated as possible carriers of Typhus. They also shed hair and bring in parasites when they move into a building. Dead squirrels (most cases babies that die at birth) will cause an extremely foul odor. Squirrels also create a fire hazard as they gnaw on electrical wiring. They are much more aggressive than their Northern counterparts and will defend their young vigorously.


      2. Do you know of a real – life story, similar to the one presented in this passage, where a favourite pet animal or bird gets killed? Share it with your classmates.

      Ans. (Answer will vary)