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Lord Cranbrook 50++years of Swiflet Research


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Lord Cranbrook 50++years of Swiflet Research

  1. 1. Gathorne Hardy MA PhD PNBS(K) (5 th Earl of Cranbrook) Sarawak Museum (1956 - Yayasan Siswa Lokantara Universiti Malaya Niah cave excavations “Expeditions” (1964 – 92), to Kinabalu, Gn Benom, Vanuatu, Gn Mulu, Belalong (Brunei) Chairman, English Nature (1990-98), Chairman Entrust, Regulator of Environmental bodies under UK Landfill tax regulations (1996)
  2. 2. Two tasks: 1. Sort out swiftlets taxonomy and biology 2. Identify animal remains from Niah excavations.
  3. 3. SWIFTLETS of MALAYSIA <ul><li>Burung Lelayang and sustainability of </li></ul><ul><li>“ white gold” </li></ul>
  4. 4. SWIFTLETS of MALAYSIA <ul><li>Systematics and biogeography of wild swiftlets </li></ul><ul><li>Identity of house-farmed birds </li></ul><ul><li>Biology and behaviour of swiftlets </li></ul><ul><li>Issues and implications for house-farming </li></ul>
  5. 5. SWIFTLETS of MALAYSIA <ul><li>1. Systematics and biogeography of wild swiftlets </li></ul>
  6. 6. Diversity peaks World range of swiftlets: Indo-Pacific Mascerenes Eastern Himalayas New Caledonia Hawaii Indo-Malayan region
  7. 7. Swallows share the skies with swiftlets, but are unrelated
  8. 8. Unlike swallows, swiftlets cannot perch. They feed (on aerial arthropods) and drink on the wing. Lim Chan Koon
  9. 9. The world range of swiftlets [nos. of species] (Asia & Indian ocean) [1] [1] [1] [ < 1 > ] [3] [ < [ 8 ] > ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 7 ] [1] [ 6 ] [1] Migratory
  10. 10. Hot-spot Malaysia 3 genera, 8 species of swiftlets
  11. 11. Apodidae (swifts) Collocaliini (swiftlets) <ul><ul><li>Waterfall swift , Hydrochous 1 species </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Glossy swiftlets, Collocalia 3 (+) spp. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Black-brown swiftlets, Aerodramus 22 (-) spp . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> World total ~ 26 spp. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Apodidae (swifts) Collocaliini (swiftlets) <ul><ul><li>Waterfall swift , Hydrochous 1 species </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Glossy swiftlets, Collocalia 2 spp. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Black-brown swiftlets, Aerodramus 5 spp . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> Malaysia total 8 spp. </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Waterfall swift (formerly called the “giant” swiftlet Breeding records Sight records
  14. 14. Waterfall swift, Hydrochous gigas
  15. 15. Apodidae (swifts) Collocaliini (swiftlets) <ul><ul><li>Waterfall swift , Hydrochous 1 species </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Glossy swiftlets, Collocalia 2 spp. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Black-brown swiftlets, Aerodramus 5 spp . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> Malaysia total 8 spp. </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. troglodytes esculenta Plain tailed linchi Glossy swiftlets Two species in Malaysia White spots on tail feathers
  17. 17. Speciation among Glossy swiftlets, Collocalia C. esculenta L. 1758 C. linchi H & M 1834 C. troglodytes Gray 1845 All build self-supporting cup-like nests of strands of plant material, fixed with a basal band of edible nest ‘cement’
  18. 18. Collocalia : glossy swiftlets 1. White-bellied swiftlets C. esculenta
  19. 19. Collocalia : glossy swiftlets 1. White-bellied swiftlets C. esculenta cyanoptila
  20. 20. Key character: a single feather tuft on the hind toe (hallux) Collocalia esculenta cyanoptila
  21. 21. Collocalia linchi, Linchi swiftlet : Java, part of Sumatra & Kinabalu, Sabah Green glossed upperparts No tuft on hallux
  22. 22. Apodidae (swifts) Collocaliini (swiftlets) <ul><ul><li>Waterfall swift , Hydrochous 1 species </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Glossy swiftlets, Collocalia 2 spp. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Black-brown swiftlets, Aerodramus 5 spp. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> Malaysia total 8 spp. </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Black-brown swiftlets Aerodramus Photos: Lim Chan Koon
  24. 24. Or “Mossy” nests <ul><li>. </li></ul><ul><li>Nest of plant material, bound by soft, moist cement; rests on facet in cave wall </li></ul>
  25. 25. Speciation among ‘mossy’ nest swiftlets Permanently soft, glutinous salivary nest-cement Lim Chan Koon
  26. 26. A.vanikorensis Q & G 1830 A.salanganus Streubel 1848 * * * = type locality The two allopatric “mossy-nest” swiftlets
  27. 27. There is only one species of swiftlet building the ‘Black’ nests this is Aerodramus maximus Lim Chan Koon
  28. 28. Hevily feathered tarsus = A. maximus Naked (or lightly feathered) tarsus = others Field characters 2.
  29. 29. SWIFTLETS of MALAYSIA <ul><li>2. White nest species </li></ul>
  30. 30. White nests ( ‘vestitus’) Salai cave, Baram, Sarawak Photo Lim Chan Koon
  31. 31. White nests are highest value These nests are composed almost entirely of edible nest-cement, with no more than a few feathers adhering to or incorporated, Raw nests may be worth RM 7000 per kg of ~100 nests
  32. 32. SWIFTLETS of MALAYSIA <ul><li>** Importance of </li></ul><ul><li>Museum collections </li></ul><ul><li>[Sarawak Museum, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity (Singapore), Natural History Museum (London), Naturalis (Leiden), Museum Natl d’Histoire naturelle (Paris), American Museum of Natural History (New York), US National Museum (Washington DC), Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia...... ] </li></ul>
  33. 33. There are also two species of “white-nest” swiftlets This is the typical dark-rumped form Aerodramus f. fuciphagus of Java
  34. 34. White-nest swiftlets from Sarawak Aerodramus fuciphagus vestitus
  35. 35. White-nest swiftlet from Gomantong cave , Sabah
  36. 36. Topotypes of vestita Lesson from Sumatra
  37. 37. AMNH 634703 f Coll. H.C. Robinson, Koh Pennan (Phangan Is) 13 June 1913. L Wing 112 No moult. Grey rumped, or Germain’s swiftlet Aerodramus germani Coasts and islands from Hainan (China) & Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, to Andaman Is Grey rump, with dark shaft streaks
  38. 38. <ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hainan </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>Grey-rumped forms Topotypical Aerodramus g. germani Satang island, Sarawak (W. Borneo) Berhala island, Sandakan (N. E. Borneo) Mantanani Is., N W Borneo
  39. 39. Skins from Satang Kecil (1933)
  40. 40. Young bird from Satang Kecil, Sarawak Turtle Is. Collected in 1957
  41. 41. Two old skins from Selangor (Kelang) 1887 & 1908
  42. 42. Two skins from Juara Bay Tioman island (1907)
  43. 43. P. Condore Type locality Sembilan Is Satang Island Mantanani Is. Berhala Is. Maratua Is. (ssp. perplexus ) Southern and western limits of Grey-rumped swiftlets Aerodramus germani in Malaysia P. Tioman Gomantong Horsborough lighthouse
  44. 44. Two species of white-nest swiftlets Aerodramus germani Aerodramus fuciphagus A. g. germani A. (f.) vestitus ?? A. (g.?) perplexus A. f. vestitus A. f. fuciphagus A. g. hainaensis A. g. inexpectatus A. f. dammermanni A. fuciphagus micans
  45. 45. Topotype of “ Collocalia fuciphaga amechana” Oberholser from Pulau Jimaja, Anamba Is., Indonesia
  46. 46. Glossy swiftlets Collocalia Linchi Black-brown, Aerodramus Giant swiftlet Hydrochous Black nest White nest Mossy nest Bracket vegetable nest Indo-Malayan swiftlets
  47. 47. Six swiftlets of interior Borneo: Comparative wing lengths Scale in mm Chris Stimpson Diagram by C. Stimpson
  48. 48. <ul><li>Nest site </li></ul>Pulau Gua = ‘Cave island’, Sarawak
  49. 49. Karst limestone of interior Borneo Surprisingly, no records of Aerodramus swiftlets in any cave in Msia Semenanjung Caves in limestone and other rocks are the natural nesting sites of swiftlets.
  50. 50. White cliffs Dizzy heights Twisty tunnels The work of nest collectors is very hazardous
  51. 51. A. (f.) vestitus Salai cave, Baram, Sarawak Rarely can nests be gathered by hand Lim Chan Koon
  52. 52. Access to many caves is arduous Bt Kelam, W. Kalimantan Nest fissure
  53. 53. Climbing Mt Kelam Fixed ladders
  54. 54. Walkways in cave interiors are made of natural materials Panguma cave, Niah, Sarawak Black-nest colony
  55. 55. Nuar at Panguma Fixed climbing aids also use available natural materials
  56. 56. Johari Top of the pole Sarawak Museum
  57. 57. Collecting head at the end of the pole (penyulok ) Huge loss of life – eggs and young birds : Kayan river, Kalimantan Timur George Nawan
  58. 58. SWIFTLETS of MALAYSIA <ul><li>2. Identity of house-farmed swiftlets </li></ul>
  59. 59. HOUSE-FARMED SWIFTLETS <ul><li>2. Origin and identity of house-farmed swiftlets </li></ul>
  60. 60. HOUSE-FARMING THE LATEST DOMESTICATION Intensive management of housed swiftlets began in Java, Indonesia, in the 1970s
  61. 61. Glossy swiftlets naturally colonise cave entrances, rock-shelters, tree hollows and, by extension, culverts, bridges, open buildings and many other man-made structures <ul><li>Linchi swiftlet [W. Java] </li></ul><ul><li>Green glossed upperparts </li></ul>
  62. 62. In Java, especially, skills developed in transforming buildings naturally colonised by glossy swiftlets into white-nest houses
  63. 63. Egg transfer
  64. 64. Nest management
  65. 65. House in transition C. linchi > A. fuciphagus Glossy swiftlet nests White nests
  66. 66. New nest house at Bayang Kara, Kaltim. Original wooden house with C. esculenta nests enclosed in concrete shell; eggs imported from W. Java Ventilation holes Cladding, for coolness Javanese technology exported
  67. 67. Spontaneous occupation of buildings by edible/white-nest swiftlets Penang & Butterworth Kuala Terengganu Bintulu Melaka Singapore Java (multiple instances) Banjermasin Since 1890
  68. 69. Spontaneous colonisations of buildings in Pen. Malaysia Penang (1947) K. Terengganu (1974) Kuala Lumpur (1948) Known start dates Melaka (1953) Singapore (1935) Taiping (1950s)
  69. 70. Spontaneous colonisation of buildings <ul><li>The first historic records of white-nest swiftlets occupying buildings were in Java, mid/late 19 th century. </li></ul><ul><li>Skins from Malacca dated 1953 (Raffles Mus.) </li></ul><ul><li>In Singapore, the first record was 1935 (Chasen). </li></ul><ul><li>In Penang, recorded breeding in a shop-house “at least” since 1947 (Gibson-Hill, Langham). </li></ul><ul><li>Taiping : tradition since 1950s in old govt. buildings </li></ul><ul><li>Kuala Terengganu (six) water-front shop-houses (1974) </li></ul><ul><li>Vietnam (about 1970) </li></ul>
  70. 71. Since 1990s swiftlet-farming has relied on the direct attraction of free-flying birds into specially constructed houses
  71. 72. House-farm buildings are now a familiar part of the street scene Is this the solution to sustainbility ?
  72. 73. Tower block North Sumatra New build (2002)
  73. 74. Vertiginous new structure in Pak Phanang, S. Thailand
  74. 75. In southern Thailand swiftlet houses are a tourist attraction
  75. 76. A young bird at Miri, Sarawak Resembles neither of the wild species of Borneo
  76. 77. An adult from Kuching house
  77. 78. House-farmed white-nest swiftlets of Sarawak do not resemble either of the wild species Aerodramus germani on islands Aerodramus (f.) vestitus of inland caves
  78. 79. Spontaneous colonisation of buildings <ul><li>Personal record of white-nest swiftlets spontaneously occupying buildings in Bintulu town Sarawak, first seen (~18 nests) in the eaves of downtown MAS office building in 1997. </li></ul><ul><li>Slightly earlier in Miri, where birds were nesting around windows mid-town in late 1990s. </li></ul><ul><li>The scene totally altered by the introduction of (initially) taped and now CD recordings of swiftlets vocalisations </li></ul><ul><li>MAGIC MUSIC </li></ul>
  79. 80. Pak Phanang S. Thailand
  80. 81. A bird that flew into a house in Taiping Presumably from a local farm-house
  81. 82. Adult bird no. 2, Penang 29 Oct 08
  82. 83. Adult bird no. 3, Penang 29 Oct 08
  83. 84. Adult house swiftlet at Taiping, 30 Sep 09
  84. 85. Swiftlet at Pusing With unusually dark rump
  85. 86. Adult bird Kota Bahru Oct 08
  86. 87. Neighbour Joining Tree based on partial Cyt b region Sibu (03) Setiawan (SW102) Setiawan (SW01) Setiawan (SW101) Kuantan (KT152) Endau (EN191) Endau (EN193) Rompin (RP61) Selangor (SB32B) Selangor (SB32A) Sumatra ( SM77) Sumatra (SM78) Sumatra (SM77a) Sumatra (SM76) vestitus Goh Wei Lim Baram (LS01) Baram (LS09 ) Kuantan (KT41B ) Setiawan (SW02) Kuantan (KT41A) Kuantan (KT151) Endau (EN192 ) A. maximus 66 95 83 49 59 0.005
  87. 88. Examples from other localities are similar Singapore <ul><li>Dorsal plumage, adult, freshly moulted indistinguishable from Javan </li></ul><ul><li>A. fuciphagus </li></ul>
  88. 89. SWIFTLETS of MALAYSIA <ul><li>3. Swiftlets biology and behaviour </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In scientific literature, Langham’s study of a house colony in Penang for 6 months (1971) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kang studied a colony in artificial tunnel in Singapore (Pulau Sentosa) for about 1 year </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Otherwise all data from wild birds in natural cave sites in Sarawak by Lim Chan Koon (1996- </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is it time that house-farmer associations developed research programmes to match the needs of the industry? </li></ul></ul>
  89. 90. SWIFTLETS of MALAYSIA <ul><li>Dark orientation </li></ul><ul><li>a. All Aerodramus swiftlets (including house-farmed birds) orientate in darkness by use of a rattle-like echolocation call. </li></ul><ul><li>What are the implications for housed colonies? </li></ul>
  90. 91. 1958 sonograph of echo-locating calls of Aerodramus maximus < - - - 2 seconds - - - > Single clicks, very short duration : 0 – 15 kHz ‘white sound’ A||||||||||||||V 20 kHz
  91. 92. SWIFTLETS of MALAYSIA <ul><li>2. Breeding cycles and behaviour </li></ul><ul><li>a. Wild swiftlets have very protracted breeding cycles in relation to their small size.(including house-farmed birds) </li></ul><ul><li>What is the breeding peiodicity in housed colonies? </li></ul>
  92. 93. Malaysian swiftlets: statistics for wild birds (averages ) Species Ad. Wt. (g) Egg size (mm) Clutch Incub’n (days) Fledge (days) Black-nest 18 25 x 16 1 28 59 White-nest ( vestitus) 12.5 20 x 14 2 25 45 Mossy- nest 12.5 21 x 14 2 23 48 Glossy ( cyanoptila ) 7.5 17 x 11 2 22 42
  93. 94. White-nest : coordinated breeding Lim Chan Koon
  94. 95. White-nest swiftlet: eggs & nestlings Salai cave, Sarawak, 1997-98 1997 1998 Eggs Nestlings Lim Chan Koon
  95. 96. White-nest Swiftlets: % undisturbed, marked nests containing at least one egg = breeding. 3 Sarawak caves Lim Chan Koon
  96. 97. A. (f.) vestitus : ‘Porcupine’ stage
  97. 98. Black-nest swiftlet: Slow nestling growth Body mass (g) Wing length (mm) Adult Kang et al.
  98. 99. SWIFTLETS of MALAYSIA <ul><li>3. The edible substance of the nest </li></ul><ul><li>a. It is well known that the edible nest material is a secretion of the salivary glands of swiftlets </li></ul><ul><li>What is the relationship between nest-building and gland activity in housed colonies? </li></ul>
  99. 100. Inactive gland Active gland Black nest swiftlet
  100. 101. FAQ 1 What is the edible substance ? <ul><li>Chemical composition of nests of different species are similar but not identical (Lim, 1999) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>C. esculenta nest has significantly less sialic acid but more galactose as compared with </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A. fuciphagus or A. maximus nests. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fucose absent in A. maximus nests </li></ul></ul>Lim Chan Koon
  101. 102. Commercial nests “ C. brevisrostris” Apus pacificus Apus affinis Human growth hormone
  102. 103. Repackaged as a novel product
  103. 104. Metabolic demands on breeding swiftlets <ul><li>1. Production of salivary nest cement vs. reproductive effort </li></ul><ul><li>Note: a completed ‘white’ nest, consists entirely of edible material secreted by the building birds, and weighs 5 – 10 g </li></ul><ul><li>i.e., 50-80% body weight of a swiftlet </li></ul>
  104. 105. Breeding cycle & salivary gland activity Females Males Gonads active Salivary glands inactive Gonads inactive Salivary glands active
  105. 106. Metabolic demands on breeding swiftlets <ul><li>1. Production of salivary nest cement vs. reproductive effort </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion: </li></ul><ul><li>Females in breeding (=egg-laying) condition cease to participate in nest building. </li></ul><ul><li>Males are not constrained, and remain capable of producing nest material, regardless of sexual condition. </li></ul>
  106. 107. Metabolic demands on breeding swiftlets <ul><li>1. Production of salivary nest cement vs. reproductive effort </li></ul><ul><li>2. Moult and replacement of plumage </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a. Flight feathers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>b. Contour (body) plumage </li></ul></ul>
  107. 108. Malaysia (2-5 o N) Annual breeding cycle and moult All birds
  108. 109. A. (f.) vestitus : breeding & moult *** 1 st primaries moulted Last primaries moulted *** Lim Chan Koon
  109. 110. Black-nest swiftlet at Niah Annual moult of the primary tract
  110. 111. Black-nest swiftlets at Sarang: moult & breeding % nests with eggs Count of shed feathers Lim Chan Koon
  111. 112. Studies of behaviour at the cave mouth shows that swiftlets feed only during daylight hours, and that weather (especially rain) is an important determinant of the birds’ activity. It is likely that prolonged rainy weather is detrimental to their ability to feed
  112. 113. The influence of weather on behaviour
  113. 114. Analysis of food balls fed to nestlings, compared with passive samples of aerial insects, shows that swiftlets are selective feeders, taking a very wide variety of arthropod prey
  114. 116. Conclusions & questions (1) <ul><li>House-farmed swiftlets in Sarawak do not resemble either of the local wild forms, and molecular studies support this distinction. </li></ul><ul><li>There is phenotypic variation among house farmed swiftlets. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Young swiftlets in Miri have distinctive grey rumps, and birds of similar appearance are established in swiftlet houses as far away as southern Thailand. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kuching adults are closer to A. fuciphagus of Java, but have rump streaks reminiscent of A. germani </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Further variation is shown among birds of east [Kota Bharu] and west [Penang I.] of Peninsular Malaysia. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Are house-farmed birds interspecific hybrids ? </li></ul>
  115. 117. The Malaysian government has recognised that the husbandry of swiftlets in houses falls into the remit of the Veterinary Department, including issues such as animal welfare and cruelty
  116. 118. According to the Law <ul><ul><li>Under State (Sarawak and Sabah) and Federal Law, wild swiftlets are totally protected species, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It is illegal to hold,handle etc the birds or their products. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In Sarawak, it is illegal to maintain any swiftlet in town houses </li></ul></ul>
  117. 119. A new domestication <ul><li>It is evident that house-reared swiftlets are imprinted on buildings as potential nest sites. </li></ul><ul><li>There is no evidence (e.g., Sabah, Perak) that any house-type birds have colonised available caves. </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore, genetically and behaviourally they constitute a new ‘domestic’ form of swiftlet. </li></ul><ul><li>If they are hybrids, their scientific name is not regulated by the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature. </li></ul><ul><li>For convenience, they could perhaps be known as </li></ul><ul><li>Aerodramus domesticus </li></ul>
  118. 120. Could managed, selective breeding of house-farmed birds improve the stock, e.g., female fecundity, nest weight or quality, disease resistance ?
  119. 121. Outstanding issues <ul><li>Is the present high rate of increase in house-farmed birds sustainable ? </li></ul><ul><li>If there is over-exploitation of the food resource, could this place a local or regional limit on the populations ? </li></ul><ul><li>Are house-farmed swiftlets competing for resources with other bird species of similar habit, e.g., migratory swallows Hirundo rustica ? </li></ul>
  120. 122. In the scenario of this newest domestication, with the backing of sound husbandry and good science , rational planning can ensure the perpetuation and sustainable management of this important biological resource.
  121. 124. Thank you <ul><ul><li>And my thanks to the many people who have joined me in field trips, and given help and support, especially colleagues on whose work I have drawn: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dr Boedi Mranata, Dr Lim Chan Koon </li></ul></ul>A bit of science on the subject
  122. 125. Carpometacarpus of a swiftlet Scale in mm Chris Stimpson
  123. 126. Carpometacarpus: Fossils from Niah cave Scale in mm Chris Stimpson
  124. 127. Carpometacarpus: Fossils from Niah cave Scale in mm Chris Stimpson