It's a delicacy sold for a few dozen yuan amid hushed tones in certain markets and restaurants in Guangdong province. Sellers turn away customers who do not speak the local dialect - anyone caught can be fined as much as 100,000 yuan (HK$126,400).
Despite the threat of penalties, the market for yellow-breasted bunting, a migratory bird that flies from Europe to China for the winter, thrives on the mainland. Conservationists say poaching to supply the demand is a leading cause of the sharp decline in the protected species' numbers over the past decade.
The bird was today listed as endangered by the main global body that categorises the survival status of the planet's species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The union has two higher categories - critical and extinct in the wild - before a species is deemed extinct.