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Do birds have saliva?

Do birds have saliva?

It’s a rare occasion to think about the parts of a bird such as glands, organs, and anatomy of the body. Who has the time to think about it with so much new information available out there? But if you’re here, it means that you encountered some posts about birds’ saliva. You’re maybe wondering right now if birds have saliva?

Birds have saliva. But this is only particular for birds with salivary glands. One of the most famous birds that have saliva is the swiftlets. It’s responsible for a popular dish called bird’s nest.

If you have no idea about bird saliva and the dish made from it, explore this topic by reading the tons of information I’ll reveal to you.

Do birds produce saliva?

Birds with salivary glands produce saliva. Yes, some birds like pelicans don’t have it but parrots and swiftlets have it. You can find the gland on the tongue and you can find it also on the roof and floor of the mouth. But the placement may vary so you can notice some bird’s tongues have a dry part because the salivary gland is not present. 

The saliva produced on the gland is carried throughout the specified location by series of ducts. The glands are developed during the time of hatching. 

Birds don’t chew their food. They either swallow it or break large pieces into smaller ones. They use their bills to take a bite or to break nuts and seeds. Sometimes, they break the food by beating it against a hard material to break it into bite-size pieces. Then they tilt back their head so the food goes to the back of their throat. To smoothly swallow the food, saliva helps them to do it.

What is bird saliva used for?

Bird saliva is used for nest building, ingredients, and medicine. Because of its thick consistency, it’s perfect for creating a nest. You can eat it as well. You read it right, you can eat it. You can also use it to cure some ailments.

Nest building

Not all birds create their nests using saliva. But the most popular species that create their nest through saliva are the hummingbirds and the swiftlets. Because of their saliva’s thick consistency, it can build a sturdy nest. 

In the case of swiftlets, they produce a large amount of saliva, which helps them create a bowl-shaped nest, which fits the hatchlings. There are times when you can see a nest build through saliva with other plant materials such as twigs and feathers.


Bird saliva is used as the main ingredient for the popular yet expensive dish called bird’s nest. It’s also called the “Caviar of the East” because it’s delicious and pricey as well. The saliva is mainly produced by male swiftlets. Because of its popularity, man-made nesting sites are built to keep up with the demand for the dish.


Bird’s saliva is part of China’s and Vietnam’s traditional medicine. Traditional medicine claims that it has a therapeutic effect on people who use it. In a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, it showed that birds saliva has beneficial effects upon clinical trial in vitro and in vivo. It also showed in the study that cell proliferation and differentiation may be enhanced by the bird’s saliva.

Is bird saliva a delicacy?

Bird saliva is a delicacy and it costs up to $10,000 per kilogram. It’s added to a soup dish called Bird’s Nest Soup, which is pricey. A bowl of soup can cost you up to $100. 

With the expensive price tag, it’s important that you know how to choose a bird’s nest. Most sellers rate their product as AAAA or AAA. It’s an indication that the bird’s nest is expensive but of high quality. Here’s a quick guideline for choosing a bird’s nest. 

Selection by shape

There are different bird’s nest shapes. There’s a boat-shaped bird’s nest, triangle shape, stripes, and cake form. The boat shape has maintained its strands and shape. On the other hand, the triangle shape is smaller than the boat shape and it usually comes in three pieces or more. The triangle shape comes from one nest but in a smaller version. 

The stripe shape is literally in striped shape while the cake form is the tiniest as it’s the broken pieces of the nest. It’s only meshed together to make a form.

Selection by texture and color

There are three bird’s nest colors, which include ivory white, golden yellow, and red. The golden yellow and the red color are rarer than the ivory white. They get their color from the minerals they absorb from cave walls. It was believed that the red color comes from the swiftlet’s blood. However, it has been proven that it’s due to mineral absorption. 

Ivory white is the most common color and it has no minerals. You can easily find it in the market. However, you must not buy a bird’s nest that it’s too white as it indicates that it has undergone the process of bleaching. 

You can find a lot of bird nests online but it’s a bit tricky if you’ll just evaluate the texture through the pictures. I suggest that you buy it in a physical store so you can feel the texture. When evaluating the bird’s nest, you must feel that it’s firm to touch and the strands are thick. Take a closer look if the knits are tight. You’ll know that you get the best quality if the strands are not soft and loose.

Selection by quality

There are three quality types that you can buy in the market. It includes premium quality, feather prime, and grass nest. The premium quality gives you 95% saliva while the feather prime gives you 50% saliva. The grass nest is only made of 5% saliva. The percentage left for all the types includes feathers and debris. So, a grass nest means that the bird’s nest contains 95% feathers and debris.

When it comes to convenience, premium quality is the better option because you don’t need to clean a lot of feathers and debris. However, it’s pricey. If you want a cheaper nest, you can buy the other types but it requires a lot of patience to remove the feathers debris using tweezers.

Selection by location

In this category, I’ll be discussing two types of location. One location is about the country while the other location is where exactly you can get a bird’s nest.

Location by source

There are two ways to harvest a bird’s nest. You can harvest it in a cave, which is a lot harder than the farm harvest. Because it’s difficult to harvest in a cave, the bird’s nest is a lot expensive. The rare type is also found in caves as the minerals from the cave walls are absorbed by the nest. On the other hand, the farm harvest is cheaper and it’s more accessible.

Location by country

There are the top four countries where you can buy a bird’s nest. The best one comes from Vietnam as it provides a stronger and richer aroma. The next country that provides the best product is the nest found in Thailand. Many consumers prefer it because it’s firmer and thicker than its counterparts. It’s a cave nest so the yield is a bit smaller than the farm-produced nests. The Thailand nests need to be soaked and cooked longer.

Other countries that distribute bird’s nest is Indonesia and Malaysia. The Indonesian type is softer and smoother and it’s accessible from caves and farms. It’s affordable and it’s clean, similar to the Malaysian type.

Is bird saliva good for you?

The popularity of bird nests in eastern countries drives us to the question: is it good for our health? If we consult Chinese medicine, it’ll tell us that it has many benefits for our health. In fact, bird nests have been part of Chinese cuisine some hundreds of years ago. There are different versions of legends telling us that it’s been a food even by the Chinese Royals. 

According to Chinese medicine, a bird’s saliva is high in fiber and it’s rich in essential amino acids. It also contains iron, calcium, potassium and sodium, sialic acid, and glycoprotein. These nutrients and minerals present in the bird’s saliva make it a healthy source of food that can treat malnutrition. Because of its high fiber content, it helps in the body’s metabolism. 

Other benefits of bird’s saliva include boosting the immune system, enhancing complexion, and maintaining youthfulness. It can also repair the skin and body tissue as it has a component called epidermal growth factor, which is responsible for such repair. 

Chinese medicine says that bird’s nests can help in the recovery from chronic illness when consumed moderately. It can also help in easing dry coughs, clearing phlegm, and relieving fatigue. If you’re having a digestion problem or in the bowel movement, bird’s nest can help you relieve such conditions. Chinese medicine also says that a bird’s nest can increase your appetite.

Why is bird saliva expensive?

Bird saliva is expensive because it’s not produced all year round. The swiftlets only produce their nests three times a year, which is one of the factors that make saliva expensive. Another factor that makes it expensive is that most saliva is harvested in the wild. It’s dangerous to harvest in caves that require climbing up. In most cases, harvesters don’t use harnesses and safety nets in harvesting the saliva.

Even though harvesters want to harvest the best nest form, they have no control over it. So, they’ll just harvest the nests available instead of being nitpickers. They just collect as much as they can. Because of this practice, the number of swiftlets declined from the year 1957 to 1997. There are more nests being harvested than swiftlets being hatched, which led to a very high-priced bird’s nest. In 1990, the nests were sold for up to $1000 per pound or $2000 per pound today.

What does bird spit taste like?

You can find on the internet saying that a bird’s spit depends on where it was harvested. If it’s near the ocean, it usually has a briny flavor. Some say that you can also get a batch that is a bit sweet. Some even said that if you can get one that tastes like honey. 

But most of the time, you can get a flavorless spit, which is perfect for cooking. The spit absorbs the taste of the ingredients, which makes it flavorful. If you’re eating it with crab, the spit will taste like crab. 

If it’s your first time to try it, you can buy flavors with crab combined with ginger and Chinese ham. It’s a great combination that wins the heart of many people who try it. Some use it as dessert soup where chefs add hers and rock sugar.

With its gelatinous texture, it feels luxurious to taste. Adding dates and fruits like dried longan makes it a luxurious soup. You can also add pandan leaves and ginkgo nuts. You can add anything with it because it has a neutral taste.

If you plan to cook your own nest, the first thing you need to do is to soak it for two to three hours. Soaking is done to soften the nest. If you buy the nests that have debris, it’s better to use a white bowl so you can see the dirt that has been removed. Rinse it with water to remove excess dirt.


Bird saliva is an expensive food that’s worth a try. If you’re a food enthusiast, it’s something that must be part of your bucket list. It’s not poisonous as many people have tried it and nothing happens. In fact, it’s been considered healthy food that can cure ailments. If you’ve tried the most expensive food and spices such as caviar and saffron, respectively, you must try the bird saliva or the bird’s nest.