Types of Bird's Nest

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Bird's nest / bird's nest soup is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. A few species of swiftlet, the cave swiftlets, are renowned for building the saliva nests used to produce the unique texture of this soup.The Chinese name for bird's nest soup, yàn wō (燕窝), translates literally as "swiftlet nest". When dissolved in water, the birds' nests have a gelatinous texture used for soup.

The edible bird's nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans. The bird's nests have been traditionally used in Chinese cooking for more than 400 years, most often as bird's nest soup. The most heavily harvested nests are from the Edible-nest Swiftlet or White-nest Swiftlet and the Black-nest Swiftlet. The white nests (house nest) and the cave nest are supposedly rich in nutrients which are traditionally believed to provide health benefits, such as aiding digestion, raising libido, improving the voice, alleviating asthma, improving focus, and an overall benefit to the immune system.

The bird's nests are built during the breeding season by the male swiftlet over a period of 45 days. They take the shape of a shallow cup stuck to the cave wall. The nests are composed of interwoven strands of salivary laminate cement. Both nests have high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium.

The bird's nests were traditionally harvested from caves called as Cave Nest, principally the enormous limestone caves at Gomantong and Niah in Borneo. With the escalation in demand these sources have been supplanted since the late 1990s by purpose-built swiftlet houses, usually reinforced concrete structures following the design of the Southeast Asian shop-house. These swiftlet houses are normally found in urban areas near the sea or forest in Malaysia, Indonesian, Thailand and Vietnam, since the swiftlets have a propensity to flock in such places. This has become an extraordinary industry call as swiftlet farming, mainly based on a series of towns in Malaysia which have been completely transformed by the activity. From there the nests are mostly exported to Hong Kong, which has become the centre of the world trade, though most of the final consumers are from mainland China.


House Nests and Cave Nests

Bird's Nests are broadly classified into two categories.

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House NestsBuilt specially for swiftlets, these house nests can be found under the beams of houses. House nests tend to be white in colour and boasts smoother and softer in texture. They have regular edges, fewer fine feathers and no impurities.

Cave NestsThese nests are built on the walls of caves by the swiftlets and thus are much harder to harvest. Cave nests tend to have a natural yellowish or grayish appearance and a firm texture.

Background on Bird’s Nest

Edible bird's nests are placed among the world’s most expensive animal products consumed by humans. Traditionally used in Chinese cooking, today, a bird's nest soup is highly revered as a luxurious Chinese delicacy. Beyond its refined taste, bird’s nests are rich in nutritional contents of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium.

But first, what is a bird’s nest? A bird’s nest is made of interwoven strands of salivary laminate cement that is shaped like a shallow cup stuck to the wall of a cave or house. Typically, a male swiftlet takes over 45 days, during the breeding season, to build a complete bird’s nest.

The most heavily harvested nests are from the Edible-nest Swiftlet or White-nest Swiftlet and the Black-nest Swiftlet. The white bird’s nests are thought to be rich in nutrients, which are traditionally believed to offer health benefits such as aiding digestion, alleviating asthma, improving focus, raising libido, and overall benefiting the immune system.

Bird's nests were traditionally harvested from caves such as the enormous limestone caves at Gomantong and Niah in Borneo. But to meet rising demand, swiftlet houses were built. Found mainly in urban areas near the sea or forests in Malaysia, Indonesian, Thailand and Vietnam (where swiftlets tend to flock to), swiftlet houses have spawned a lucrative farming industry. In fact, many towns in Malaysia have been completely transformed by swiftlet farming. Once harvested, the nests are mostly exported to Hong Kong, the centre of the world trade for bird’s nest, and consumed mainly by affluent consumers from China.