"A bowl of clear, gelatinous bird spit sits on the kitchen table."
September 7, 2019 4:35 AM   Subscribe

Swiftlet Farming in SouthEast Asia: While travelling in Vietnam's Can Gio, your boat may pass a great grey building surrounded by a cloud of birds. The building is remote from nearby towns, and speakers blast even louder bird song out to the river. What are you looking at?

A Swiftlet Farm in the Philippines. A Malaysian farm. Vice Magazine publishes Wesley Grover's first person account of his visit to a farm in Vietnam.

How do swifts build their nests?. Traditional nest harvesting. An interview with a traditional nest hunter. This article from Time talks about the tension between the traditional way of harvesting the nests and the new farms.

Business Insider gives a short introduction to the economics of Bird's Nest Soup. (Transcript here if you would rather read.) China is the largest market for bird nest and has used import restriction as leverage in the past.

The Hong Kong Tatler informs you how to cook a bird's nest. Or you can watch one of the many instructional videos. This one is from Mama Cheung.
posted by frumiousb (6 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When my Chinese girlfriend was pregnant with our daughter Adora, she wanted some bird nest soup for health and nutrition. I bought her a fancy box with so many dried clusters of the stuff, which supposedly was the real thing. It costed $800 (In Rowland Heights’ Chinatown)
posted by growabrain at 6:00 AM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Interesting that the farmed and wild populations are genetically distinct. Like there is a genetic predisposition to preferring house spaces verse wild cliffs/caves.
posted by Mitheral at 9:09 AM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Interesting that the farmed and wild populations are genetically distinct. Like there is a genetic predisposition to preferring house spaces verse wild cliffs/caves.

I bet it’s more than that. I bet it’s a tolerance for being around human’s; ostensibly a predator. Like the domestic foxes and silkworms (and many others), they’re probably losing some of their fearful behaviors. Maybe nesting in higher densities as well, or the ability and willingness to produce more nesting materials - if in the wild they reuse nests but the human habituated ones they have to rebuild after each brood.

The genetic changes for domestication seem to happen mighty quick. Makes a lot of sense, there is a need for a population to fill new niches as they arise and those that can quickly are more likely to succeed. I believe we’re seeing a lot of evolution happening this way, rather than the long process it was thought to be, it ends up kick started in short burst with a lot of initial change.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:17 PM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not genetic changes, surely, but rather intense selective pressure operating on an already variable population.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:26 PM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yes, saltation is well accepted to be a more accurate model of evolution. In the face of strong selection, founder effects also come into play.

I've had birds nests before, but it's more of a texture carrier for consomme than an actual kind of food.
posted by porpoise at 4:35 PM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Haha, this reminded me that my parents told me birds nest was frog ovaries... or are frog ovaries a thing?
posted by porpoise at 8:06 PM on September 8, 2019

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