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About Bird Nests


Are Bird Nests Vegan Food?

“Can vegetarians eat Bird Nests?”

In a span of 3 days, coincidentally, I have been asked this question 3 times. (1) By a FaceBook Fan who dropped us a message. (2) By a Chinese restaurant owner whom we are partnering with. (3) By a Finance and HR Head of a local IT company whom would like to engage us for our health talk.


It is a very good question, and I’m pretty sure there have been debates on whether or not bird nest is suitable for vegetarians. So, is it a nest? (which also means it is a non-living object) Or, is it an animal by-product?


Firstly, let us take a look at what edible bird’s nests are made of. Edible bird’s nests are made from the salivary excretions of swallows.The gummy saliva, will harden into tightly woven strands. The saliva is considered the cement that holds the entire nest together, and the strands are interwoven throughout the nest. Such salivary excretions is super rich in nutrients, almost 100% proteins and essential amino acids. The birds made their nests for the sole purpose of laying eggs in the nests, and they will abandon the nest after the chicks have hatched. After which, these nests would be harvest by humans as health/tonic foods.


Next, we consider the common definition of a vegetarian: a person who does not eat or does not believe in eating meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, such as eggs, milk, or cheese, but subsists on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grain, etc. In additional, the choice of being a vegetarian may also be influenced by either moral, religious, and/or health reasons.


An interesting comparison is this: Can one compare the saliva of the swalllows, or swiftlets, to say milk or cheese, which are also derived from within an animal? Or, should one view the nest as a natural object, which contains a high concentration of amino acids?


Depending on how one interprets the definition of vegetarian, and what is one’s reason(s) behind being a vegetarian, bird nests (which technically is an animal’s saliva and not an animal’s body part) may, or may not be considered as vegetarian food. It would be up to the individual to consider the above factors, and form an opinion on his/her own based on their beliefs.


Just as there are vegetarians who consume eggs and cheese, there are vegetarians who consume edible bird’s nests.

What are bird nests

Edible bird’s nest, also know as cubilose, is a popular delicacy in Asia, made from the salivary excretions of swallows. Instead of twigs and straw, the swiftlet makes its nest from strands of gummy saliva along with other materials. The nest is created to look like a shallow cup placed on the wall of a cave. The saliva, will harden into tightly woven strands. The saliva is considered the cement that holds the entire nest together, and the strands are interwoven throughout the nest. Impurities woven into the strands must be picked out prior to consumption. Once the nests are harvested, they are cleaned and sold as a delicacy to restaurants and individuals for consumption. They are mostly harvested in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the south of China.

Bird’s nests are considered to be high in nutrients; especially proteins, calcium, potassium and other minerals, traditionally believed to provide a wondrous array of health benefits. These include aiding digestion, soothing sore throats, alleviating asthma, improving focus, and an overall benefit to the immune system.

Classification of bird nests and how to choose bird nests

Bird’s nest is a general term used to describe the nests of birds belonging to the Apodidae family.

The key categories for consumption are:

  • saliva nest (Bai Yan, being more than 90% pure saliva),

  • feather nest (mixture of saliva and feathers), and

  • grass nest (mixture of grass, twigs, feathers and saliva).

Among these, saliva nest is the most popular, and the best types. Bird nests can also be classified as(1) cave nest and (2) house nest, and the nests are named according to where they are built and harvested. So, what are cave nests and what are house nests?

Some people thought that house nests are made or manufactured, OR, they think that the swiftlets which build their nests in houses are reared birds.

Not true.

Swiftlets naturally build their nests in caves, but it is dangerous, difficult, and time consuming for man to harvest the cave nests from very high cave walls and cave ceilings. Cave nests generally cost more. Also, the environment in a cave is less hygienic and cannot be controlled. More efforts are required to thoroughly clean cave nests.

So, man is smart. They started building tall airy structures, which stimulate the conditions in a cave, in the natural habitat of the swiftlets. To attract the birds to come into these houses to build their nests. The environment in these houses are much cleaner than in a cave and can be controlled. Which also means, better quality and larger nests can be harvested from bird houses, and at a lower cost too.

Cave nests

House nests

Saliva nests come in the colours blood red, orange, yellow and white, generally depending on the colour of the natural food which the bird consumes everyday. Therefore, the colour of the bird nests is not necessarily an indication of their nutritional values. White nests, being “young nests” made from pure fresh saliva of the birds, are a common type of house nests that are harvested in the early stages of the life cycle of the bird nests.

Grading of nests

Saliva white nest produced by swiftlets (Bai Yan) are considered the one of the purest, finest and most nutritious. They are sold in different shapes, hence the grading of nests (listed from lowest to highest grade) as follows: nest chips, nest thread, nest cake, nest stripes and complete “cup-shaped” whole nest. Complete cup shaped nests, also known as whole nests, or Yan Zhan (燕盏), are the most valuable ones, typically graded Super A Grade.


How are nests harvested and cleaned? Learn more.

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Call 9038-0126 for enquires, order and delivery

King Of Nest is the brand of our bird nests carried under our Singapore registered company, Act Now Marketing Pte Ltd, which is a processed food importer registered with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (“AVA”).