The practice of harvesting bird nest from the limestone caves began many centuries ago by the local inhabitants that dwell along the peninsula coast of Malaya and the Borneo Island states of Sarawak and Sabah. The practice of harvesting cave nests began in Niah Cave, Sarawak more than 100 years ago (1878). The consumption of bird nest has existed since the Tang, Ming and Qing dynasties in China with the earliest documented record of the bird nest trade was found in the journal of Chinese trader and explorer, Admiral Chen Ho in the year 1500s. Bird nest was considered delicacies among the rich and royal household then.
The practice of encouraging swiflets that build the edible bird nest began more than 60 years ago by farmers which later spread to all the Malay Archipelago. In Malaysia, the record of establishing house swiftlets farming began about 50 years ago confined to harvesting bird nest in old non-inhabited buildings. The innovation developed by introducing bird calling was developed thereafter with mushrooming of the swiftlets ranching premises all over the country. To date there more 50,000 bird nest houses in peninsular Malaysia and about 3,000 each in Sabah and Sarawak. Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China are major importers of bird nests from Malaysia mainly in the form of raw, un-cleaned bird nests.
The more organized swiftlet industry began sometimes in 1990 when shop houses were converted into bird house by interior modification of the building in addition to introducing artificial birdcall that mimic stressed or little fledgling (new-born swiflets). The Government of Malaysia through the local municipal government regulated the building conversion while the Department of Wildlife regulates the issuing of permit for harvest and export of EBN. In 2003, the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), Ministry of Agriculture started to develop guidelines for the ranching, harvest, processing and manufacturing of the EBN to be applied on a voluntary basis by the operator. However, in 2008, a more detailed and comprehensive guidelines was developed that received the endorsement of the Malaysian Cabinet in April 2009 that entrusted the DVS to assume the role of lead agency to spearhead the development of the modern EBN industry as seen today.
Edible bird’s nest swiftlet has been a popular nutritious food for centuries.
Traditionally used as a food delicacy, the major nutrient components of EBN are carbohydrates and glycol-proteins, and essential trace elements such as;