We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is an Ortolan?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Jun 04, 2024
Our promise to you
All Things Nature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All Things Nature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

An Ortolan is a European songbird; more formally, the bird is known as an Ortolan Bunting. Like many songbirds, the Ortolan is relatively small and not very exciting to look at, but it produces a small range of songs which can be quite pleasing to the ear. The fame of the Ortoloan lies not in its singing ability, but rather in its role as a European delicacy. Due to concern about the conservation status of the Ortolan, hunting the birds is now illegal in many nations, adding even more allure to the bird's mystique.

Like other members of the bunting family, the Ortolan is a seed eater, with a small, stubby bill well adapted for cracking and manipulating seeds. The birds are brownish to green, with reddish bellies, green heads, and brown wings. The name of the bird is French, derived from the Latin hortus, for garden, probably in a reference to the bird's predilection for gardens. Scientifically, the Ortolan is known as Emberiza hortulana.

Like many songbirds, the Ortolan is migratory, preferring the more hospitable climate of Africa during the cold winter months. The birds tend to leave in the mid-fall, returning in March or April to breed. Ortolans nest low to the ground, and the birds usually pair up to incubate the eggs and raise the young. Keeping their nests low to the ground has made the birds more vulnerable to habitat depredation through farming and hunting, as the nests may be destroyed by accident or on purpose while the land is worked.

Allegedly, the birds have a very distinctive, delicate flavor, especially when they are force-fed for several weeks before they are killed. By tradition, the Ortolan is drowned in brandy for the dinner table and served whole. Diners wear napkins over their heads to enhance the aromas of the dish. Since the consumption of the bird is now banned in Europe, these napkins may also protect diners from legal repercussions.

The tradition of serving whole songbirds as delicacies is quite ancient. The Romans, for example, often served an assortment of birds as part of lavish feasts and banquets, and many legacies of these banquets can be seen in modern European cuisine. Presumably, the songbird is an appealing gourmet item because it is so small and therefore rather more decadent than larger birds which can feed multiple people. Unfortunately for the Ortolan, its fame as a dish has led to a dramatic overall decline in population.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By zoid — On Mar 22, 2010

I've heard that, traditionally, the birds are eaten bones and all. I find the idea of eating a songbird not very attractive to begin with, but eating the bones - even less so.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.