Bird Nest Soup & Trat, Thailand

pacificThe city of Trat is on Hwy 3, SE Thailand, about 57 miles NW of Hat Lek, Thailand, the southern most Thai/Cambodia border crossing. Trat is hot, humid, and about a mile from the Gulf of Thailand. Swiftlets and rubber trees love it here. The domesticated process of bird nest harvesting is called Swiftlet Farming. It involves providing a sanitary and safe building, swiftlet habitat, for the birds to build a nest and raise their young in. In the wild, Swiftlets locate their nest's in a cave or holes in a cliff face, for predator protection. A man made nesting building will correctly size the entrances and screen the ventilation ports to prevent birds of prey and other animals from entering their sanctuary. Swiftlets communicate, termed echolocation, using a clicking sound. Most of the man made buildings incorporate sound equipment to attract homeless Swiftlets. It is believed that echolocation is also used to announce their approach, exit and navigation through a cave or building. edible

blackNot all Swiftlet nests are commercially edible. The edible nest producing Trat Swiftlets are shown left to right on the right: the Black-Nest Swiftlet, Edible-Nest Swiftlet and Pacific White-Rumped Swiftlet (locally known as the Pacific Swiftlet). These three birds are commonly known as Cave Swifts. The Black-nest Swiftlet produces the lowest value nest because it is contaminated with feathers, manure, grass, etc. The most valued nest is that of the Pacific White-Rumped Swiftlet. The Edible nests are white when harvested. The male produces a long clear gelatinous strand of condensed saliva, which is wound into a half-cup shaped nest and bonded to a vertical surface. The harvested nests are washed and packaged for sale. The largest consumer of bird nest soup is the Chinese.

Trat, Thailand Swiftlets

  • Trat Hotel, Trat Thailand
  • Just behind the hotel is two swiftlet habitats.
  • Swiftlet HabitatThis is the second habitat.
  • Swiftlet HabitatIn front of the hotel and between two apartments is another.
  • Swiftlet HabitatBehind the telephone pole, on top of the blue building is another.
  • Swiftlet HabitatA Swiftlet Cave is not as safe as a man made cave.
  • Black Nest Swiftlet
  • Pacific Swiftlet
  • Cleaned Edible Nests
  • Cleaned Edible Nests
Trat Hotel, Trat Thailand1 Swiftlet Habitat2 Swiftlet Habitat3 Swiftlet Habitat4 Swiftlet Habitat5 Swiftlet Habitat6 Black Nest Swiftlet7 Pacific Swiftlet8 Cleaned Edible Nests9 Cleaned Edible Nests10

Beginning in March the nests are harvested three times through out the year. The first two harvests are taken before any eggs are laid. If a nest is removed that had eggs in it, the birds will leave the habitat in favor of a "safer&" location. The last harvest is taken "after" the young birds leave the nest. Once the young leave the nesting area the mated pair will not return until the next breeding season. Internal habitat sanitation begins after all the birds have left their nests. Harvested nests from a man made habitat are "notably cleaner" then those removed from natural nesting locations. The birds care, yes?

Habitats must be designed to control temperature, humidity and ventilation. Molds, fungus and numerous bacteria will quickly render the habitats useless without climate control. Buildings, unlike caves can be subject to direct sun, wind and water. Birds overhead usually means a mess below. This is not the case here in Trat. The lady in orange, is keeping the city property around the habitats clean.

I found this picture of a bowl of bird nest soup in a Mar 19, 2014 article in The Buffalo News, New York City, USA. This bowl of bird nest soup was sold for $40.

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