Edible-nest swiftlet

   ›      ›   Edible-nest swiftlet - Aerodramus fuciphagus.

The edible-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) belongs to the family of swiftlets and swifts, Apodidae.

These species of swiftlets are distributed in India (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), China, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Timor-Leste. The edible-nest swiftlets are highly aerial birds. The edible nest is composed almost entirely of saliva with little or no plant material. The edible-nest swiftlets use echolocation to navigate through darkness in roosting and nesting caves.

Edible-nest swiftlet - Overview

  • Scientific name: Aerodramus fuciphagus
  • Species author: (Thunberg, 1812)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Hirundo Fuciphaga Thunberg, 1812, Collocalia fuciphaga
  • Family: Apodidae › Apodiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Edible-nest swiftlet, Chinese: 爪哇金丝燕, French: Salangane à nid blanc, German: Weißnestsalangane, Spanish: Salangana nidoblanco, Russian: Салангана водорослевая, Japanese: ジャワアナツバメ, Indonesian: Burung Walet Sarang-putih, Malay: Burung Layang-layang Gua
  • Other names: German's Swiftlet, Gray-rumped Swiftlet, Thunberg's swiftlet
  • Distribution: India, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Timor-Leste
  • Diet and feeding habits: flying insects, beetles, moths, locusts, crickets, dragon flies, butterflies
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
Aerodramus fuciphagus is closely related to the Mascarene swiftlet (Aerodramus francicus) and Indian edible-nest swiftlet, (Aerodramus unicolor). The eight recognized subspecies of Aerodramus fuciphagus are: Aerodramus fuciphagus amechanus (Oberholser, 1912), A. f. micans (Stresemann, 1914), A. f. germani (Oustalet, 1876), A. f. dammermani (Rensch, 1931), A. f. inexpectatus (A. O. Hume, 1873), A. f. fuciphagus (Thunberg, 1812), A. f. vestitus (Lesson, 1843) and A. f. perplexus (Riley, 1927).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The edible-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) is a small bird, measuring about 12 cm in length and weighing 15 to 18 grams.

The edible-nest swiftlet has glossy brownish black upperparts and paler underparts. The rump is pale gray. The tail is slightly forked. The wings are long and narrow, helping in fast flight. The bill and feet are black. The swiftlet has short, weak legs, which are used for clinging to vertical surfaces of caves.

The edible-nest swiftlets use a form of echolocation to navigate through darkness in caves. They make echolocating double clicks for navigating in total darkness through the chasms and shafts of the roosting and breeding caves. The clicking sound is within the normal human hearing range. The swiftlet call is a buzzy nasal “zzreeew” and “zi-reeew” sound.
Indian birds - Edible-nest swiftlet - Aerodramus fuciphagus
Birds of India - Image of Edible-nest swiftlet - Aerodramus fuciphagus
Indian birds - Edible-nest swiftlet - Aerodramus fuciphagus
Birds of India - Edible-nest swiftlet - Aerodramus fuciphagus

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The edible-nest swiftlet is distributed in India (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), China, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Timor-Leste. The subspecies A. f. micans is distributed in the Indonesian islands Sumba and Savu and also Timor Island.

The edible-nest swiftlet subspecies A. f. dammermani is distributed in Flores, an island in Lesser Sundas. The swiftlet subspecies A. f. fuciphagus is distributed in Indonesia (Java, Kangean Island, Lesser Sundas and Tanahjampea). The subspecies A. f. perplexus is distributed in Maratua Island (Indonesia). The swiftlet subspecies A. f. amechanus is distributed in Anambas archipelago (Indonesia).

The edible-nest swiftlet subspecies A. f. vestitus is distributed in Sumatra, Belitung Island and Borneo (Indonesia). The subspecies A. f. inexpectatus is distributed in Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islands (India). The swiftlet subspecies A. f. germani is distributed in Hainan Island (China), Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malay Peninsula, Mergui Archipelago (Myanmar), Borneo (Indonesia) and Philippines.

Ecosystem and habitat

The edible-nest swiftlet species have very low forest dependency. They inhabit various ecosystems having open areas, rocky crevices and cave systems. They inhabit caves, subterranean cave systems, open woodlands, rocky offshore islands, plantations, urban parks, rural gardens, tropical moist lowlands, inland cliffs, sea cliffs, dry stony scrubland and rocky montane and submontane areas. The edible-nest swiftlet may occur in elevations of 0 to 2800 meters.

Diet and feeding habits

The diet of these swiftlet species is mostly flying insects such as beetles, moths, grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, cicadas, flies, sawflies, wasps, bees, flying termites, flying ants and airborne spiders. The edible-nest swiftlet are very agile and buoyant in their foraging flight, catching and feeding on the prey as they fly. These swiftlets drink water by skimming the water surface while flying.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of the swiftlet species is mainly in March and April in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. They breed in colonies in caves. Considering the commercial aspect of the edible nest and also with consideration for conservation, bird houses are being built to entice the swiftlets to roost and build edible nests.

The nest of edible-nest swiftlet is constructed by the male exclusively with its gummy saliva. No plant material is incorporated and the 'home' building may take nearly one month to complete. The shiny, translucent half-cup edible nest is stuck to the vertical cave walls. Usually the clutch has two eggs. The breeding pair may raise a second brood, if not disturbed.

Migration and movement patterns

These swiftlet species are non-migratory resident birds. They roost and breed in cave systems. Post breeding dispersal of juveniles takes place. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding.

Conservation status and concerns

The global population size of the edible-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) has not been quantified. The overall population size is considered to be under slow decline. In most of its ranges this swiftlet species is reported to be common and abundant. Excessive harvesting of the edible nests and eggs, especially in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, is the main threats to the survival of these bird species. Their generation length is 5 years.

The edible-nest swiftlet does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable either under the range size criterion or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the edible-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

Taxonomy and scientific classification of Aerodramus fuciphagus
Species:A. fuciphagus
Binomial name:Aerodramus fuciphagus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AerodramusFuciphagus.LipKee.jpg
Image author: Lip Kee Yap | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 (as on 2016-12-10)
2.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/maholyoak/5846832188/in/photostream/
Image author: Marcel Holyoak | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (as on 2016-12-10)
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