The cries of amorous swiftlets echo around the dark room, an unlikely gold mine for traders in southern Myanmar, who are cashing in on the rising demand for the edible nests from China’s growing middle class.
Dozens of buildings dedicated to the tiny birds have sprung up around the seaside town of Bokpyin in recent years, their grey concrete structures towering over the humbler wood and brick homes of the town’s human inhabitants.
Every morning and evening, the air is filled with high-pitched twitterings blasting from loudspeakers, that draw thousands of the swallow-like birds home to roost.
Edible bird’s nests have become one of the main industries in the town, which is traditionally known for producing betel nut (areca nut), a chewable stimulant, as well as rubber and palm oil.
Traders can charge around US$2,000 (RM8,591) a viss (equivalent to 1.63kg) for the tiny nests – more than the average person in Myanmar earns in a year.
“We started making man-made bird nests (houses) 10 years ago,” said Paing Set Aung, who owns one of the buildings where hundreds of swiftlets make their homes in the rafters.
“Initially, there was a house where the birds came to roost by themselves. After that, people started to construct man-made bird houses.”
Most of the tiny white nests, which are made from solidified bird spit, are sold to neighbouring China.
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