The ortolan, or ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana) is a bird in the bunting family Emberizidae, a passerine family now separated by most modern scholars from the finches, Fringillidae. The genus name Emberiza is from Old German Embritz, a bunting. The specific hortulana is from the Italian name, hortulane, for this bird. The English Ortolan is derived from Middle French hortolan, "gardener".
In September 2007, the French government announced its intent to enforce long ignored laws protecting the bird.
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 relative 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 song of the male ortolan resembles that of the yellowhammer.
Ortolan nests are placed on or near the ground.
Seeds are the natural diet, but beetles and other insects are taken when feeding their young.
A native of most European countries and western Asia, its distribution throughout its breeding range seems to be very local, and for this no obvious reason can be assigned. 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.
Photos Cape Greco 14/4/2017 by George Konstantinou