Rather an avian flavour to this blog recently so here’s one more post that takes that literally. Birds nest soup has been a menu option in
One of many memorable Attenborough moments – the sainted Sir Dave, feet traditionally planted in bat and bird guano, peering into the upper reaches of Malaysian caves as the local nest collectors risked life and limb to secure “white gold”, the set saliva of the male swiflets that is meant to protect the eggs and nestlings. The birds can produce three nests per breeding season so collecting only the first two can allow one brood to survive and sustain the supply.
Sadly though, the trade has become just too profitable. Where there’s muck (can’t get that image of the cave floor out of my mind!) there’s money … but where there’s money there’s muck too. Over-exploitation, trade rackets – demand exceeding supply leads to a $60 price tag on a single bowl of soup in
Enter the entrepreneur. Colonies of twittering swiftlets that have set up in town houses are now managed for productivity; even though some of the techniques are mean (“Midnight Music” post – 20th February), they are cosseted as valuable residents. Have a look at these photos though – new build along the coast of
P.P.S. There is a nasty sting in this tale however. The birds eat insects from their surroundings, and not surprisingly the most sought-after nests are ones where the foraging is from natural environments. Another ecosystem service at risk?