S.E. Asia is filled with bird houses specifically built for the harvesting of nests that are made by the swiftlet. The “bird houses” are really buildings designed to house many hundreds of these birds. The buildings, which carry the same name as the bird (walet in Indonesia), can cost between $20,000-50,000 dollars (USD). Investors build these huge bird houses because the nests the birds make, uniquely from their own saliva, is harvested and sold for as much as $800.00-$1,600 dollars (USD) per kilogram (2.2 Lb). The price goes up tremendously as it passes through the middle-man.
Bird Nest Soup
The nests ultimately make their way to restaurants or individuals to be used in making bird nest soup. Asians believe the soup has medicinal value, specifically aiding digestion, raising libido, improving the voice, alleviating asthma, improving focus, and an overall benefit to the immune system. This soup is also believed to possess qualities that will balance out the “life energy” known as qi.