Posted by: Dan | September 16, 2009

What Ambeloupoulia Is

This is part of the series of posts Poaching in Cyprus FAQ

What is ambelopoulia?

A plate of Ambelopoulia.  Photo from RSPB.

A plate of Ambelopoulia. Photo from RSPB.

Ambelopoulia is a controversial dish of pickled or grilled songbirds served in some Cypriot restaurants. Warbler species such as Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla), and old world flycatchers such as European Robins (Erithacus rubecula) are the most prized, although any small bird of about that size (bite size, literally) will be served. They are trapped by indiscriminant methods (e.g., mist nets and limesticks), often combined with the broadcasting of recordings of bird calls over speakers to attract the birds.

The birds are pickled or grilled, and sold in restaurants. A diner will typically eat his way through a dozen or more ambelopoulia. The serving of these birds is illegal, but the law is ignored by restaurants and law enforcement alike, particularly in the towns of Cape Greco, Ayia Napa, and Paralimni in the Famagusta district. A poacher can receive €3 to €4 for a warbler, and the typical price for a plate of ambelopoulia (4 birds) in 2007 was €40, and €50 in 2008, and the healthiest birds with the largest fat reserves are the most prized. They are also most available during Spring and Autumn migration times.

An opinion poll commissioned by BirdLife Cyprus in 2008 showed that 3% of Cypriots (about 160,000 people) eat the birds “regularly” – that’s up from 2005, when 2% of respondents said they ate them regularly. Additionally, it is unclear exactly how many restaurants are breaking the law in this way, but they number in the dozens. Additionally, 14% of Cypriots claimed that ambelopoulia was their favorite poultry (22% in the Famagusta district).

For more, see the Autumn trapping report 2008, from BirdLife Cyprus.


  1. Have they ever tried a “domesticated songbird” approach to resolve this problem, as in having some species raised in captivity for this instead of harvesting in the wild?

  2. Not to my knowledge.

    They seem more to maintain the opinion that these migrant songbirds are trespassers, and that the bounty of the land is theirs to benefit from without any repercussion.


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