Source: EBN Resources
The swiftlets (Collocalia Family) are not the same as the barn swallows (Hirundo rustica). The swiftlets have short bills, wide mouths, small and weak feet, and long, crescent-shaped wings whereas the barn swallow has similar wings but has a long forked tail.
The swiftlets feed on insects caught with their wide mouth while in flight. They only perch when they are sleeping or feeding their chicks. The monogamous parents lay 2 eggs and both incubate the eggs for 3-4 weeks. The chicks remain nested for 43 days. The swiftlets can live up to 10-20 years.
The swiftlets' nests resembles a cupped hand with one side stuck to a wall and the other side for them to rest. After they have mated, their salivary glands excretes thin gelatinous strands of saliva which they use to make their nests.
Types of swiftlet nests
These are the types of swiftlet nests from 3 different species
- Whitenest swiftlet (官燕)
- Blacknest swiftlet (白洞燕 ; more feathers in the nest)
- Grass swiftlet (草燕; more weeds than saliva in the nest)
According to Chinese classical books on healthcare, swiftlet nests were imported into China from South East Asia since the T'ang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907). Depending on which research paper you read or whom you asked, birdnest apparently has high nutritional value from its enzymes and its protein. Nest is best?
Swiftlet nest soup
When you buy swiftlets' nest, choose the hard and cripsy ones, not the wet and soft ones (which will weigh more and grow mould easily). The better quality ones have less feathers in them. The birds' nest will expand 7-8 times when soaked in water. After 30mins, manually remove the feathers and impurities. Stew the cleaned birds' nest with water, rock sugar and ginseng for 45-60mins in a pot. Do you have a nested interest?
The gaping hole is the entrance.
The nests outside are from swallows, not swiftlets.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Sarikei enterprenuers copied ideas from West Malaysia's swiftlet houses. Old houses were equipped with recordings of swiftlet noises and mating calls to attract swiftlets to nest. At least 10 swiftlet rearers started to use downtown rooms as swiftlet houses. The return on investment was better than the low rentals they could collect for these rooms. In 2003, Sarikei District Council ordered them to move the birdhouses to the rural areas to reduce the noise and health hazard from the bird droppings.
Sarikei Ta Kwong cinema, 1990s.
Find the shop at the front.
Submitted by: ST
If you drive to the rural areas and along the old road to Bintangor, keep a look out for old houses that have converted to homes for swiftlets. The suburban cinema, Tai Kwong 大光 , is now a swiftlet house! Ta Kwong cinema started in 1972 in a wooden hall with rattan chairs. It has been reduced to a sorry state from its glory days of offering entertainment in the rural areas from 1979 in a new concrete building to 1986 (owned by a Mr Lau). Tai Kwong coffeeshop operated on the left and a nameless tailor shop on the right. A sundry shop operated there in the 1990s.
Can you imagine the swiftlets having the best seats in the cinema now? Excuse me, birds, where are your tickets?