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Emberiza hortulana

Emberiza hortulana (*)

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Passeriformes
Subordo: Passeri
Parvordo: Passerida
Superfamilia: Passeroidea
Familia: Emberizidae
Genus: Emberiza
Species: Emberiza hortulana


Emberiza hortulana Linnaeus, 1758

Vernacular names
Български: Градинска овесарка
Česky: Strnad zahradní
Deutsch: Ortolan
Ελληνικά: Βλαχοτσίχλονο
English: Ortolan Bunting
Français: Ortolan
Nederlands: Ortolaan
Polski: Ortolan
Português: Hortulana
Suomi: Peltosirkku
Svenska: Ortolansparv


Syst. Nat. ed.10 p.177

The Ortolan, or Ortolan Bunting, Emberiza hortulana, is a bird in the bunting family Emberizidae, a passerine family now separated by most modern authors from the finches, Fringillidae. The bird's common name is French, from the Latin hortulanus, the gardener bird, (from hortus, a garden).

A native of most European countries and western Asia the Ortolan migrates in autumn to tropical Africa, returning at the end of April or beginning of May. Its distribution throughout its breeding range seems to be very local, and for this no obvious reason can be assigned. It was said in France to prefer wine-growing districts; but it certainly does not feed upon grapes, and is found equally in countries where vineyards are unknown. It reaches as far north as Scandinavia and beyond the Arctic Circle, frequenting cornfields and their neighbourhoods. It is an uncommon vagrant in spring and particularly autumn to the British Isles.

The Ortolan is 16 cm in length and weighs 20–25 grams (0.71–0.88 oz). In appearance and habits it much resembles its congener the Yellowhammer, but lacks the bright colouring of that species; the Ortolan's head, for instance, is greenish-grey, instead of a bright yellow. The somewhat monotonous song of the cock resembles that of the Yellowhammer.

Ortolan nests are placed on or near the ground; the eggs seldom show the hair-like markings so characteristic of most buntings' eggs.

Seeds are the natural diet, but beetles and other insects are eaten when feeding young.


The species is in decline in at least ten European countries, although the total population is estimated to be 400,000-600,000 pairs.

In France it disappeared from 17 départements between 1960 and 1980, and numbers have fallen in another seven départements. The 1992 estimation for the French population is 15,000 pairs.
Female in Ukraine

The reasons proposed for this strong regression are habitat degradation, reduction of nesting places, and changes in the agricultural landscape. Hunting (in particular in Landes ) is responsible for taking about 50,000 birds per year (ten times the Ortolan population of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands).

It is a protected species in Europe and its sale is illegal in France, but Gascons still catch it by the end of summer to fatten it. This practice is politically sensitive and one of the reasons for the regional success of parties like that of Hunters and Fishers.

In September 2007, the French Government announced its intent to enforce long ignored laws protecting the bird.[2][3]


The ortolan is one of the dishes of French country cuisine. It is now against the law to sell them in France, but not to eat them.

For centuries, a rite of passage for French gourmets has been the eating of the Ortolan. These tiny birds—captured alive, force-fed, then drowned in Armagnac—were roasted whole and eaten that way, bones and all, while the diner draped his head with a linen napkin to preserve the precious aromas and, some believe, to hide from God.

– The Wine Spectator

Ortolans used to be netted in great numbers, kept alive in an artificially lighted, or darkened room to disrupt their feeding schedule, and fed with oats and millet. In a very short time they became enormously fat and were then killed for the gourmet French table.

In French the word ortolan is used so as to be almost synonymous with the English bunting, resulting in a tautology; thus, the ortolan-de-neige is the Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), the ortolan-de-riz is the rice-bird or Bobolink of North America (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), celebrated for its flavour. But the name is also applied to other birds much more distantly related, for the ortolan of some of the Antilles, where French is spoken, is a little ground-dove of the genus Chamaepelia.

In Europe the beccafico (fig-eater) shared with the ortolan the highest honours of the dish. The true beccafico is said[by whom?] to be what is known in Britain as the Garden Warbler (the Motacilla salicaria of Linnaeus, the Sylvia borin of modern writers); but in Italy any soft-billed small bird that could be snared or netted in its autumnal emigration passed under the name in the markets and cook-shops.

The beccafico, however, is not as a rule artificially fattened, and on this account was preferred by some sensitive tastes to the ortolan.

One way French diners ate ortolans was to cover their heads and face with a large napkin for the gourmet's aesthetic desire to absorb the maximum odour with the flavor. This famous use of the towel was launched by a priest, a friend of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.[4]

François Mitterrand's last meal included this specially prepared bird which was illegal to prepare and eat at that time.[5]

In 1975, food critic Craig Claiborne made a winning $300 bid in an auction for a dinner for two, courtesy of American Express, at any restaurant in the world that takes its credit card. Claiborne selected Chez Denis in Paris for a $4000 meal[6] that included a course of ortolans. It led to a front-page story, and some controversy.[vague]


1. ^ BirdLife International (2004). Emberiza hortulana. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
2. ^ Roasted songbird banned in France from MSNBC.com
3. ^ Susan Bell (10/09/2007). "France's songbird delicacy is outlawed". Sunday Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1562561/Franceandrsquos-songbird-delicacy-is-outlawed.html. Retrieved 2008-02-21.
4. ^ The Urban Hunt from The Stranger
5. ^ "François Mitterrand's Last Meal". NPR. 1996. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5223077. Retrieved 2008-05-26.
6. ^ Craig Claiborne (November 14, 1975). "Just a Quiet Dinner for Two in Paris: 31 Dishes, Nine Wines, a $4,000 Check". The New York Times. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30713F7355D137B93C6A8178AD95F418785F9. Retrieved 2010-12-14.

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Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License