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    Bird Houses with a Twist

    NewsStrange but TrueThursday 14 July 2011
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    Bizarrely, a  bird house building boom is currently taking place on the Indonesian island of Borneo. The natives of Borneo have been building more and more huge, brightly-painted bird houses that play siren calls all day long in order to lure the valuable edible-nest swiftlet, a rare and important bird whose nests – as you could have guessed – are considered edible delicacies and bring in large quantities of money, largely from China. The bird makes its nest by regurgitating long strands of saliva onto the wall of a cave – or, in this case, a house – and these strands then harden into a sort of woven cup to provide a cradle for the bird’s young hatchlings. Many Chinese believe that these hardened cups, when mixed with broth, bestow special health benefits such as fighting disease, moisturising the skin and aiding blood flow.

    A good quality nest that has the classic “cup shape” and is free of dirt and feathers can fetch $11 to $23 in Indonesia. Swiftlets have laid their nests in Indonesia for centuries but it was only with the invention of the CD player – allowing locals to lure the birds into specially-constructed houses with recorded mating calls – that the industry of gathering their nests really took off and became profitable. Before, locals would venture into caves to gather the nests. However, getting started can be expensive – a normal-sized “swiftlet bird house” can cost about £10,000. Still, the bird houses continue to be constructed all over Indonesia, and the swiftlets continue to create their nests.

    Pictured - a haul of swiftlet nests.

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