There are many species of swiftlet family around the world but not all species of swiftlet can produce edible nest. Only 5 species from the family of Apodidae known scientifically as Collocalia Fuciphaga (White-nest Swiftlet), Collocalia Maxima (Black-nest Swiftlet),Collocalia Esculenta (Grass-nest Swiftlet), Collocalia Vanikorensis (Mossy-nest Swiftlet), and Collocalia Brevirostris (Himalayan Swiftlet) can construct edible nest. Only the first three main edible nest producing swiftlet will be mentioned.
Collocalia Fuciphaga Species
Also known scientifically as Aerodromus Fuciphagus, this specie is popularly known as the White Nest or House Nest swiftlet. They construct their nests with a glutinous nest-cement produced by a pair of large, lobed salivary glands under the tongue. It is this nest-cement that constitutes the raw material of bird’s nest soup and renders the nest its commercial importance. The glutinous strands content in the nest of this species is about 85-97% in its unprocessed form, making it the most sought after in the market as well as commanding the highest price. Most if not all bird’s nest farm cultivate this particular specie.
C.Fuciphaga measures about 12 cm in its entire length and weighs about 15 to 18 gm. This swiftlet has a band of brownish gray feathers across the rump with dark brown eyes, black beak and feet. Eggs are laid 2 at a time, slightly oval in shape and white in colour.
Collocalia Maxima Species
Also known scientifically as Aerodromus Maxima, this species’ popular name is Black-nest Swiftlet because it uses its brown feather together with its glutinous strands as cement for making its nest, thereby making its nest blackish in colour. Its feet have feathers all over and thus contribute in the formation of its nest. The glutinous strands content in this nest is only 5-15% in its unprocessed form.
This nest is very popular in making bottled or canned bird’s nest, and sold most popularly in cake form or as strips and crumbs.C.Maxima is larger than the Fuciphaga measuring averagely at 13 cm and weighs about 28 gm. At a glance this 2 specie might look the same but on closer examination they are quite different. The distinguishing difference is its lower leg grows a row of small feathers. This swiftlets nests can be the red-legged or white-legged form and usually lays one egg.
Collocalia Esculenta Species
Its popular name is Grass Nest as it uses grass with its glutinous strands as cement for making its nest. The nest is normally brownish in colour with the glutinous strands content at about 5-15% in its unprocessed form. This swiftlet nest is highly demanded for restaurant consumption and is sold most popularly as strips or in crumbs and cake form.C.Esculenta has a glossy, darkish blue-black colour and is smaller than C.Fuciphaga and C.Maxima measuring only about 10 cm in length.
All these species has slightly parted tails. Good quality nests from these species can be distinguished by the firm, white basal attachments and a comparatively large proportion of nest-cement with few feathers or grasses in the nest-cup, a thick body and in perfect shape, form as well as colour.