Ortolan, or Emberza hor-tulana, L. a delicate exotic bird, inhabiting France, Italy, and the southern parts of Europe ; though it also visits Germany, Sweden, and Britain, in which countries these birds are caught during their migration. They feed principally on panick-grass, and grow very fat, especially when fed with oats and millet ; and confined in dark cages.
The greatest traffic with ortolans is carried on by the inhabitants of the Island of Cyprus, where they are caught in great numbers, and pickled in casks ; each containing from 3 to 400 birds, prepared in spice and vinegar ; after having cut off their heads and lower extremities. In this state, they are imported into England, France, and Holland, for the table of the epicure, who pays a high price for these delicious morsels, on account of their exquisite flavour.- Funke informs us that, in productive years, 400 such casks, or, upon an average, 140,000 of these charming warblers, are sacrificed to the palate of man, in the small island above mentioned.
According to Prof. Bradley, ortolans, as well as quails, visit this country in April (arriving at the same time with the swallows), and leave it in September. They are in season during the months of July, August, and September : being generally lean after their long passage in the spring, few are then fit to be eaten. Their most favourite places of resort, are plantations of vines in the vicinity of oat-fields, where they may be taken in bow-nets.
Considered as an article of food, ortolans roasted in a fresh state, afford a grateful, and not unwholesome dish ; but, when pickled and imbued with the most stimulating spices, they ought to be eaten with moderation, or rather avoided by invalids, and those whose circulating humours are already in a depraved state.