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Bird's nest


The Edible-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) is a small bird of the swift family which is found in South-east Asia. Its nest is entirely made of solidified saliva with little or no plant material. The nests are made by the males during a period of 35 days.

Its diet consists of flying insects which are caught on the wing. Naturally these swiftlets breed in colonies in caves, in a cleft in a cliff or sometimes on a building.

The bracket-shaped nest is white and translucent and is made of layers of hardened saliva attached to the rock. It measures about 6 cm across with a depth of 1.5 cm and a weight of about 14 grams.

Average edible bird's nest contain about 62 per cent proteins including amino acids, about 27 per cent carbohydrate and a few per cent minerals, fat and moisture.

The most common nests have a white to grayish color. There are also more expensive yellow to orange and red colored nests (also called: red blood nests) marketed, which are harvested from limestone caves and the specific color is natural due to the environment. Red nests are thought to be more potent than then the yellow-orange and they should be more potent then the white ones.


The edible bird's nest are made by the "South East Asia's swiftlets" (Aerodramus fuciphagus). These sparrows like birds construct their nest with glutinous strands of starched like saliva produced by a pair of large, salivary glands under their tongue.

These very special kind of nests are found mostly in Hainan Island of China, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo Island (consisting of Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and Kalimantan) and the Philippines.

The collectors of bird's nest harvest about 5 times a year, but assure that the bird's can reproduce during the months February until July.

The traditional method of harvesting has not been able to keep up with the escalating demand for birds' nests, prompting some inventive technology. Concrete or wood nesting houses have been built along the sea coast, mostly in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

vogelnestjes geoogst Photo: Edible birds nest just after harvesting. After collection comes the tedious process of cleaning the nests. They are soaked in water to soften the nest cement so that feathers and bits of dirt can be removed with tweezers.
benseng-vogelnestjes wit premium kwaliteit Photo: Real white birds nest from premium quality after cleaning.


In some countries of Southeast Asia the edible nests are mainly consumed as a delicacy used in the preparation of soups and other dishes. The soup is made by soaking the nests in plenty of water. Then let it simmer for as long it takes for the bird's nest to dissolve completely. In this way it is also possible to brew a tea from it.

It is said that cave nests are better as it takes up to three hours to double boil them while nests farmed in houses or other manmade structures take only 30 minutes.

Occasionally edible birds nest are used as food supplements. For this application either the dry nests are ground into powder or an extract is made from it.

Externally edible nest extracts are sometimes worked in cosmetics. Facial masks and beauty crèmes are sighted in the market.

Beneficial for:

See website from EFSA for possible allowed health claims:


Industrial application

There are still no industrial application known of the Edible birds nest.


The optimum beneficial dosage of the edible birds nest has not been supported by any scientific research.

Because it is such a costly ingredient, for therapeutic purposes most often 5-10 grams of dried whole birds nest (1-2 dry nests) are taken as soup or tea 2-4 times a week for as long as the complaints last.

For cosmetic purposes it is sufficient to use only 1-2 nests weekly.


The use of Edible birds nest can generally be regarded as safe. Nevertheless one should make sure that the real bird's nests are obtained. This document is for professionals only. It is the responsibility of the user to refer to the laws in force in the country of sale and determine the relevance of the products for the intended use. This ingredient is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease. The allegations have not all been evaluated by EFSA, they are not intended to be labelled on a commodity to the consumer.

More information / news

2015-02-25 Bird Nests Made with Saliva: One of the World's Most Expensive Foods
2014-10-14 Stricter rules on bird?s nest
2014-01-02 China lifts Malaysian bird's nests import ban
2013-11-10 Bird nest industry facing serious challenges
2012-10-19 Vengurla Rocks: Nesting site of bird with edible nest may get protection
2012-10-05 Swiftlet farming guidelines out
2012-08-08 Birds nest: Sabah must have own identity
2012-05-28 RFID technology thwarts bird's nest counterfeiters
2012-05-25 Central plan to save endangered species
2012-03-21 Proponents of bird's nest soup put money in walet
2012-03-17 Swiftlet numbers dwindling in Niah caves
2012-03-13 Register, swiftlet farmers told
2012-01-16 Bird's nest exporters need 3 quality certifications to enter China
2012-01-08 Edible bird nests sought from China to Silicon Valley
2012-01-06 Malaysian bird's nests to re-enter China in April
2011-10-27 Ministry to set nitrate level in bird's nest next month
2011-08-28 Malaysian swiftlet industry not involved with blood nest
2011-08-27 Taking a flyer on benefits of bird's nest soup
2011-08-11 Adhere to requirements, bird's nests suppliers told
2011-08-04 Health Ministry to develop standard for bird nest products
2011-02-04 Bird's nest Drink
2009-08-23 Home sweet home
2009-08-23 Are they really healthy?
2008-01-18 Arrests made in bird's nest robbery
2007-11-29 Who gives a spit about bird's nests
2006-02-02 Swiftlet farmers worry over fee
2006-01-13 Nest harvest in the Baram

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