Dark Park – Swiftlets (Underground River)

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Ambience: Swiftlets
We’re in a cave, deep underground in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in the Philippines. It’s pitch black. You can’t see a thing. But the birds we’re listening to, Swiftlets, are able to find their way. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jaynee Tabangay is the program coordinator for Conservation International in this area. She says that like bats and dolphins, these sparrow sized Swiftlet birds use a process called echolocation to find their way in and out of the cave.

“So when you say ‘echolocate,’ this is the use of sounds so that the sounds they produce will bounce back as it reaches a wall or any object, so… that would tell them the distance from a certain object. So they don’t get hit; they would find their way.”

According to Tabangay, Swiftlets like these are a great source of income for local foragers. But it isn’t the birds themselves that are sold; what people want to harvest are the nests.

“The edible nest Swiftlet makes a white nest out of their saliva. I would compare that to how a spider creates its web. They have a mechanism to release a sticky substance out of their mouth and that sticky substance is elastic and tough. So this nest is edible; it’s a favorite among Chinese. So they gather the nest, and they serve it in restaurants in soup. They call it ‘Bird Nest Soup’ or ‘Needle Soup.'”

The Swiftlets’ edible nests command quite a price in China, where people believe they have powerful health benefits. One bowl of bird’s nest soup can cost up to $60 dollars! The high demand for the nests has caused the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia to establish strict harvesting restrictions. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.
music

Dark Park - Swiftlets (Underground River)

These cave-dwelling birds find their way in the dark, and manufacture nests that are considered culinary delights by many cultures.
Air Date:12/28/2005
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
Ambience: Swiftlets
We're in a cave, deep underground in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in the Philippines. It's pitch black. You can't see a thing. But the birds we're listening to, Swiftlets, are able to find their way. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jaynee Tabangay is the program coordinator for Conservation International in this area. She says that like bats and dolphins, these sparrow sized Swiftlet birds use a process called echolocation to find their way in and out of the cave.

"So when you say 'echolocate,' this is the use of sounds so that the sounds they produce will bounce back as it reaches a wall or any object, so... that would tell them the distance from a certain object. So they don't get hit; they would find their way."

According to Tabangay, Swiftlets like these are a great source of income for local foragers. But it isn't the birds themselves that are sold; what people want to harvest are the nests.

"The edible nest Swiftlet makes a white nest out of their saliva. I would compare that to how a spider creates its web. They have a mechanism to release a sticky substance out of their mouth and that sticky substance is elastic and tough. So this nest is edible; it's a favorite among Chinese. So they gather the nest, and they serve it in restaurants in soup. They call it 'Bird Nest Soup' or 'Needle Soup.'"

The Swiftlets' edible nests command quite a price in China, where people believe they have powerful health benefits. One bowl of bird's nest soup can cost up to $60 dollars! The high demand for the nests has caused the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia to establish strict harvesting restrictions. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.
music