Edible-nest Swiftlet

The Edible-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus), is a small bird that is found in South-east Asia. It has a wide range of habitats from coastal areas to mountains, occurring up to 9180 feet above sea level on Sumatra and Borneo. There are six recognized subspecies.

The adult is about 4.5 inches long and weighs a little more than a half ounce. 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. Several calls are uttered including a loud, rattling call used for echolocation in dark caves.

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. Two white, oval, non-glossy eggs are laid.

The nest of this species is favored in making bird’s nest soup as it is composed almost entirely of saliva and hardly no plant material. It is considered and aphrodisiac and is said to have various medicinal qualities. The nests can fetch high prices and they are harvested commercially in many communities. Some populations have this species have declined due to uncontrolled harvesting.