Yesterday I just came back from Penang, Malaysia. While I was there, my friend, Mr.SK took me to one of his friend's birdhouse. I was told that the Bird House (BH) is now two years old with few bird nests only. We met at a local food court first to get to know more about each other. After around 15 minutes of our introductory talk, Mr.T, the owner of the BH decided to allow me and my friends, Mr.SK and Mr.P to go inside his BH.
It was a shop house approximately 5 meter by 18 meter (just my rough guesstimate) located on main land Penang.The ground floor was rented out. We went in through a 1 meter wide staircase right from the front door. After we went through all three floors, 2nd, 3rd and 4th floor, I told my friend, SK, that I think I knew why the BH did not have much birds inside after two years. I didn't know whether it's a good idea to tell Mr.T or not. SK told me that I should tell Mr.T about my findings as Mr.T is a very busy businessman and didn't have much time to study all about swiftlet. Wow, he invested RM 400,000.00 for this shop house and just wait and see or depend on the birds to decide or in another word he depended on pure luck.
I told him that first and foremost, he should take out all the garbage inside the house. Those included some very old paper boxes covered with black mold and the cement dust all over the floor. As I couldn't see well with my bad eyesight, I was not sure whether the plank had mold or not. But my guess is the plank should be ok as the conditions inside the house was very dry. The humidifiers, one on each floor were left dried. So the required relative humidity at 85%RH was not met.
As outside temperature was quite hot, the BH had so many open ventilation holes and two big ventilation fans were on operating. I asked him whether he could maintain the required temperature at 29 degree celcius. He shook his head.
Inside the BH was also divided into many small rooms as it was not supposed to be a BH in the beginning. Each room was small and didn't meet the minimum 4*4 meter requirement. I didn't see an area that should be suitable as a roving area.
Very few tweeters were installed and I was not sure whether it was playing an internal sound, it sounded to me more like an external sound. I told him to check whether he used the same sound for both external and internal tweeters.
While we were in the BH, Mr.T pointed to me his plank arrangement that the length of each plank did not installed wall to wall. It was around six inches short on each side. He said this arrangement was to avoid the corner nest which will fetch lower price. I told him that I will use a different strategy, I will welcome all the corner nests in the beginning to lure as many birds as possible to stay in my BH first. I can worry about the nest quality later.
All his audio equipments were lied on the staircase floor covered with cement dust that we have to walked over them. Sooner or later, those electronic parts will be out of order.
His face didn't look well when I told him all my observations. I told him please try to get all the basic right and you should see some improvements on the number of bird nests as I saw many birds flying above the neighbour's BH. Within the area, there was one very successful BH with all the birds flew into this BH only. Around five other BHs includings Mr.T's had very few birds flew in.
After a few discussion,we waived goodbye and we left and I thought I would not meet him again.
By surprise, the next day, Mr.T told SK that he was so impressed that I who do not own a BH yet knew more about swiftlets than him and he would be happy to take us out again to see more BH in the area. So he took us to many BH locations within Penang, I observed that, in each area that he took us, there would be one successful BH surrounded by many (5-10) failed BHs. So the failure rate is even worst than 30:70, success to failure. We didn't get a chance to see the inside of these BHs.
My only conclusion was that when there was a successful BH in an area, neighbours would rush in and built or renovate their house into a new BH without any thorough study on the basic requirements and yet hoped that birds would come and stay in their BH too.
Well we all knew that it's not that simple. To be successful, we need to study in as much as we can and take care of all the details we've learnt about.
It was quite an enjoyable and learning trip on swiftlet.
My sincere thanks to my friend Mr.SK, Mr.P and Mr.T.