The Edible-nest Swiftlet
) is a small bird
of the swift
family which is found in South-east Asia
. Its nest is made of solidified saliva
and is used to make bird's nest soup
It is 11 to 12 cm long and weighs 15 to 18 grams. The plumage
is blackish-brown above, paler on the underparts. The rump is slightly paler than the rest of the upperparts. The tail is slightly forked and the wings are long and narrow. The bill
and feet are black.
The subspecies A. f. micans is paler and greyer while A. f. vestitus is darker with a rump that is less obviously paler.
Several calls are uttered including a loud, rattling call used for echolocation in dark caves.
Distribution and subspecies
There are six subspecies of the Edible-nest Swiftlet:
German's Swiftlet (Aerodramus germani), with two subspecies germani and amechanus, was formerly considered to be conspecific with the Edible-nest Swiftlet, but is now often considered to be a separate species. It occurs in the Malay Peninsula, central Thailand, coastal Vietnam and Cambodia, Hainan, northern Borneo and parts of the Philippines.
It feeds over a range of habitats from coastal areas to the mountains, occurring up to 2,800 metres above sea-level on Sumatra and Borneo. Its diet consists of flying insects
which are caught on the wing. It often feeds in large flocks with other species of swift and swallow
It breeds in colonies in caves, in a cleft in a cliff or sometimes on a building. The bracket-shaped nest is white and translucent and is made of layers of hardened saliva attached to the rock. It measures about 6 cm across with a depth of 1.5 cm and a weight of about 14 grams. Two white, oval, non-glossy eggs are laid.
Relationship with man
The nest used in bird's nest soup are composed almost entirely of saliva with little or no plant material. The soup is made by soaking and steaming the nests in water and is said to be an aphrodisiac
and to have various medicinal qualities. The nests can fetch high prices and many colonies are harvested commercially. A detailed account of modern nest farming and marketing techniques is given by Jordan (2004)
- Chantler, Phil & Driessens, Gerald (2000) Swifts: A Guide to the Swifts and Treeswifts of the World, 2nd ed., Pica Press, East Sussex.
- Jordan, David, 2004,"Globalisation and Bird's Nest Soup" International Development Planning Review, Volume 26, Number 1, Liverpool Unviversity Press and http://www.jordanresearch.co.uk/pubs.html
- MacKinnon, John & Phillipps, Karen (1993) A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Robson, Craig (2002) A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia, New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd., London.