Despite all this, chefs in France and elsewhere are intent on a practice that threatens the survival of the rare bird. A piece that appeared in The New York Times this week delved into the French culinary tradition of capturing ortolans, overfeeding them in complete darkness for 21 days, drowning them with Armagnac, roasting them and then eating them whole, in one steaming bite.
Gourmet chefs maintain that the custom, which involves eating the bird hidden under one's dinner napkin, is a treasured one in France. But conservationists and animal advocates say that the tradition is outdated and, given the bird's precarious status, must end now.
Despite a European Union ban on hunting the protected species in 1979, some 30,000 wild ortolans are killed in France every year. The demand by gourmands has already taken a toll - the population fell by more that 40 percent over the past decade.