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10,000 dead songbirds headed to Italian restaurants confiscated

Bushmeat, referring to wild animals killed (often illegally) for consumption, is usually considered a conservation problem in developing nations in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. However, a recent bust on the Hungarian-Romanian border proves that Europe is not immune: Hungarian officials seized around 10,000 dead songbirds. The birds were likely heading to restaurants in northern Italy according to wildlife trade monitoring group, TRAFFIC.

The illegal haul included Eurasian skylarks (Alauda arvensis), Calandra larks (Melanocorypha calandra), red-throated pipits (Anthus cervinus), bluethroats (Luscinia svecica), European goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis), fieldfares (Turdus pilaris), mistle thrushes (Turdus viscivorus), reed buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus) and white wagtails (Motacilla alba). While none of these species are considered Endangered by the IUCN Red List, some songbirds are in decline in Europe due to habitat loss and pollution in many parts of Europe.

Small songbirds like the Meadow Pipit are especially targeted by the illegal trade in songbirds. Photo: © Richard Thomas/TRAFFIC.
Small songbirds like the Meadow Pipit are especially targeted by the illegal trade in songbirds. Photo: © Richard Thomas/TRAFFIC.

Two years ago TRAFFIC released a report detailing the trade from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia to restaurants in Italy, where the tiny songbirds are considered a delicacy.

“Despite TRAFFIC’s earlier warnings, the illegal trade in songbirds within Europe clearly still continues—a situation the EU should find unacceptable and do its utmost to rectify,” said Katalin Kecse-Nagy, a Senior Program Officer with TRAFFIC, in a press release.

Songbird eating in Europe is not often discussed, but is hardly a secret. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has written about eating the ortolan songbird in France, a meal garnered from a blackmarket trade.

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