The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Ortolan

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ORTOLAN, a European yellowish-brown bunting (Emberiza hortulana) famous as a dainty. It is migratory, spreading over northern Europe in summer to breed, and making its nest in bushes or small trees, and singing pleasantly. Toward autumn, when it begins to migrate southward, it is plump and regarded as excellent eating. These birds are caught in great numbers, at that season along the shores of Italy and the eastern Mediterranean, and are kept in confinement and fed for some time until they become exceedingly fat and delicate, and form a table luxury. The favorite method of preparing the ortolans for table consists in roasting them in egg shells — a mode of cookery borrowed from the ancients, among whom these birds brought very high prices. In former times the island of Cyprus formed a chief depot for the exportation of these birds, which were pickled in spices and vinegar and packed in casks containing from 300 to 400 each. From 400 to 500 casks are annually exported from Cyprus.