Can you Eat Pigeons? Is it even Legal?
Is it Safe?

If you're contemplating whether you could consume pigeon meat as a source of protein, the answer is yes! Keep reading to find out more.

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Iñigo Navarro

June 06, 2021


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What’s This Post about?

Until just a few decades ago, pigeons had been comprising the diets of many Americans. Today, however, it is not a common delicacy, as the pigeon is eaten quite seldom in America. Pigeon meat is not readily available in the market.

The gregarious yet exasperating species often found in flocks of around 50-500 in the highly populated city areas are widely considered pests known to damage properties and crops.

Feeding on anything they come across, including digging into the filthy garbage cans, one often questions if they could serve as a food source for us.

People have been eating pigeons for centuries. Even though it is illegal to kill a pigeon to feed on it, pigeon meat is scrumptiously enjoyed in many parts of the world. However, it is safe only to eat certain pigeon species, those that have been primarily bred for the purpose.

a common pigeon

Can You Eat a Pigeon?

Amongst the many types of pigeons found, you can eat a pigeon as long as it is a wild pigeon or a farmed one.

Due to various reasons, people have varied perspectives on the consumption of pigeons. Some people are revolted at the sight of the pigeon - referring to it as a dirty rat-like bird. Why is it so?

In the city areas, pigeons can be seen feeding on tons of garbage and disposed of waste.

Extremely unhygienic species, the waste scavenging bird finds its meals in trash cans and puddles of vomit as it touches its feathers to any and everything it finds around - including feces.

pigeons feeding

Due to this, it is speculated that pigeons have a high probability of carrying a disease.

Feeding on polluted garbage, their meat might contain hazardous contents such as chemicals, toxins, and parasites, which could prove detrimental to the bodies of humans.

By feeding on the garbage, pigeons convert large volumes of waste into edible food materials, enriching their protein content.

Isn’t that a viable situation? The waste clearing and protein generating entity provide a nourishing and delectable meal.

If an animal consuming a diet of toxins and garbage would make its meat unsafe for humans, then the pig should be one of the first species to be eliminated from our diets. However, this is not the case.

Did You Know?

Feral pigeons do pose sporadic health risks to humans. Fortunately, this risk is relatively minimal, and any close contact with the bird itself, its nesting site, or even eating its meat is unlikely to pose any significant health issues.

Defying the view that pigeons could be susceptible to carrying diseases, the immune system for humans is relatively strong, so the meat is safe to consume.

Fun Fact

Essentially, pigeons are nothing more than a larger version of doves. If you're a Dove fanatic, you'll enjoy a pigeon steak!

What Do Pigeons Taste Like?

One of the juiciest and flavorful meats, Pigeons are a delicious treat. Darker in tone than other poultry, the lean pigeon meat tastes like a more intense and richer version of chicken.

a domestic pigeon

Pigeons specifically bred and raised to be eaten by humans produce high-quality, succulent, and tender meat, unlike the feral pigeons that are predominantly waste scavengers.

Generally, the meat of younger pigeons - or squab meat - is preferred.

Compared to that of an adult pigeon, the meat of the younger bird has a silky texture and is more tender with crispy skin, so this delicately flavored meat is easier to digest.

Once you enjoy the enriched flavor of the pigeon, seasoned with flavorful spices, you would unapologetically keep craving for more!

Where In the World Do People Eat Pigeons?

Predominantly, you’ll find pigeon meat lovers in Britain, Ireland, Italy, Egypt, France, Germany, and China.

If you’re still wondering if you can eat a pigeon, think no more! Pigeons are widely consumed in many different parts of the world.

Even though many countries have stringent laws for capturing and killing pigeons, this has not deterred pigeon lovers from eating them. They’ll enjoy the delicious feast at every opportunity they get.

a pigeon on grass

Which Pigeon Should You Eat?

Wild pigeons found in the countryside or farmed pigeons bred explicitly for the purpose of human consumption can be eaten. Feral pigeons can be contaminated with bacteria, so they aren’t safe to eat.

Fun Fact!

There is only a subtle taste difference between the tastes of wild and farmed pigeon, so there is a high probability you won't be able to decipher which one you just had!

Feral Pigeons

a feral pigeon

Flocks of pigeons living in the city area, quite often in unsanitary conditions and feeding on whatever source they find, from residential trash cans to construction debris and overflowing trenches, can undoubtedly be an unreliable source of food.

Since these feral pigeons do not qualify the health standards, they are not suitable for human consumption due to the toxic substances they feed on.

However, under the general conception, all types of pigeons are reviled. However, not all pigeons feed on awful things around.

Countryside or Farmed Pigeons

flock of pigeons

If you get a chance to closely observe the eating habits of country or wild pigeons, unlike their feral cousins, these birds feed on comestible items.

Far from the city’s pollution, they fly across farms, stopping by to forage on the wheat, corn, millet fields, and grass seeds.

Apart from eating insects and spiders like many other birds, these pigeons are also attracted to berries.

Since their diet comprises primarily of grains, these pigeons grow up to be plump and healthy. You can have a delicious pigeon meal comprising rich sources of nutrients.

If you are raising pigeons on your farm, try out these few seed mixtures to breed healthy and wholesome pigeons.

Hagen Pigeon & Dove Seed, Nutritionally Complete Bird Food

Highest Quality Seeds Blended In A Perfect Balance For The Nutritional Needs Of All Pigeons And Doves

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Unlike the feral pigeons that you often see perched on temple and domes, building ledges, or gliding over electrical wires, the domesticated or farmed pigeons are primarily bred for human consumption, enabling you to eat sustainable, locally sourced pigeon meat.

Fun Fact

More than 300 species of pigeons are found, but only as few as 5-6 of them are raised for meat consumption. They are referred to as utility pigeons.

Is Pigeon Meat Safe to Consume?

pigeons eating

Now we know eating pigeon meat is not aberrant since some breeds of pigeons are completely safe for human consumption.

So, the probability that you might get sick if you’ve had a mouthwatering pigeon roast for dinner is relatively low, almost nil, as long as you’re consuming countryside pigeons or those raised on a farm.

The meat of the feral pigeons, however, is strictly declared unsafe for consumption.

Due to its insalubrious dietary habits and unhygienic living conditions, there is a high chance that you might get sick if you eat it. This pigeon might be carrying infectious diseases.

Warning!

Merely looking at a city pigeon, you cannot determine if it's sick or not. Hence, it is highly advisable not to eat city pigeons at all!

Whether you can kill and eat a pigeon depends on the laws of each country.

In some countries, killing and eating a bird is considered a severe and punishable offense, while in others, it is deemed legal to consume the bird if they were killed under a license.

In several states in the US, there are laws regarding the protection of wild birds, including pigeons. Killing the bird for any reason, whether for consumption or preventing the spread of diseases, is an illegal act.

You need permission from the higher state authorities to kill the bird.

a dead pigeon

However, this is except for some wild birds, including feral pigeons. Due to their parasitic nature, it is permissible to kill the feral pigeons at any time and destroy their eggs and nests to prevent their propagation.

It is only in the case of the wood pigeons; otherwise, it has never been legal to sell wild birds killed under license for human consumption.

Is It Against the Law to Catch Pigeons To Cook And Eat Them?

Unfortunately, yes, it is against the law to hunt pigeons specifically to cook and eat them. However, this would again vary according to state and country laws protecting wild birds.

It’s not illegal to eat pigeons, but it is indeed illegal to capture and then kill them without good reason. We cannot deny that pigeons are a nuisance species, often damaging property, crops, and livestock and spreading diseases.

The killing of the bird is legal if it is done for pest control, prevention of diseases, and protection of crops. Keep in mind that all of these laws apply almost exclusively to landowners.

Warning!

Being hungry and in the mood for having a delicious pigeon meal does, in no way, constitute a good reason for killing the bird!

a pigeon on ground

Furthermore, apart from being illegal to kill a pigeon for no valid reason, it’s illegal to trap or catch a pigeon, as this would constitute unnecessary suffering.

However, if you find a pigeon that is already dead, you can eat it legally.

But make sure that the bird has not died as a result of some disease, illness, or ingesting poisonous substances, which can prove to be hazardous to your health as well.

What Are the Fines Imposed On Capturing And Killing Pigeons?

man feeding pigeons

In the US, each state has varying laws regarding the protection and killing of birds.

To determine the fines imposed on capturing and killing pigeons and consuming the birds (if any), it is advisable to refer to your local state authorities.

You may also contact the local governing and food authorities to be informed about the state rules.

Did You Know?

In the US, you may come across many public places with the "Do not feed the pigeons" sign. This is due to the high amount of scat that compromises the cleanliness of the area. Many places impose a fine as high as $1000 for feeding pigeons.

Why Are Pigeons Not Consumed as Frequently as Chickens?

Even though pigeon meat has a palatable taste, this form of poultry has not taken over the bird market mainly due to high breeding costs.

If it is permissible by law to eat pigeons and are declared safe for human consumption, what makes them an intensely rare food source?

Read through to find out why chickens are a more common form of poultry than pigeons.

Considered as Dirty Birds

The wild pigeons we often come across in parks, building squares, and sidewalks usually feed on junk garbage around.

This general perspective of pigeons deters people from consuming them even though pigeons that make delicious meals are primarily bred for this purpose.

High Cost of Breeding

The cost of breeding pigeons is much higher than that of breeding chickens, making them quite rare to breed. Moreover, pigeons do not produce as much meat as chickens.

The farmers are unable to fulfill the unique breeding needs of the bird.

chicken breeding

Relatively Expensive Poultry

The high breeding costs of pigeons make them an expensive delicacy. Due to this, you do not find pigeon meat commonly around supermarkets.

Instead, pigeon meat is reserved for special occasions as the wealthy of the society serve the tender meat to their exclusive guests.

To What Extent Was Pigeon Consumed in The Past?

Even until the last century, many pigeons were killed daily to serve their meat to humans. Squab, which refers to the meat of the baby pigeon, was amongst one of the most prevalent sources of meat in the US.

Considered one of the fine tableware, people were very fond of having a pigeon serving on their tables. After WW2, people’s mindsets regarding the pigeons transitioned, as they began to associate the bird solely with the feral ones.

This is because consuming feral pigeons were considered disgusting since often, we find their excrements spread all over open and public spaces.

Gradually, we saw many restaurants replacing the pigeon with other proteins such as chicken or turkey.

To What Extent Is Pigeon Consumed Today?

pigeon meat

Fast forward to today, living in America, you would know that the tender and tasty squab is making a steady comeback on the American tables.

Even though it is not still too mainstream, you can find pigeon meat in premium grocery stores.

You’ll come across an array of Squab dishes in many high-end restaurants in the country, especially the ones serving Chinese, French and Italian cuisines.

Ambrosial appetizers and main courses are served in numerous high-class restaurants with various tinge of flavors.

If you go through some of the most fine-dining cookbooks, you’ll find two to three tantalizing recipes of Squabs or Pigeons.

Is Pigeon Meat Healthy to Eat?

Yes! You might be astounded to know about this, but pigeon meat contains highly nutritious elements that offer many health benefits for humans.

Keep reading to find out the numerous vital elements present in this bird, helping to nourish our bodies.

  • High Protein Content

Do you know that pigeon meat contains a high protein ratio - almost analogous to that of a cow. Having one of the essential elements necessary for human survival, pigeon meat strengthens bones and muscles.

It regulates blood pressure and metabolic rate, repairs damaged tissues, and aids in the optimal functioning of the immune system.

  • Rich in Vitamins

Like many sources of poultry meat, pigeon meat provides you with great vitamins needed for the healthy functioning of the body.

It contains high contents of Vitamin A and C and many other essential vitamins required by the body, including thiamin, niacin, and folate.

  • Rich in Minerals

Helping to keep your bones, muscles, heart, brain, kidney, and other vital organs of the body functioning properly, squab or pigeon meat nourishes the body with essential minerals including magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium, and sodium.

Fun Fact

Pigeon meat has relatively fewer calories than chicken. A 100 grams of chicken breast has 166 calories, while the same mass of pigeon breast has 142 calories.

How Do You Cook Pigeon Meat?

cooking-meat

Preparing a squab or pigeon for your divine meal is relatively simple. You can use the same methods that you use to cook other poultry such as chickens, and ducks including roasting, braising, or pan-frying.

Pigeons do not require substantial time to prepare. Roasting or cooking them in a pan for about 15-20 minutes on moderate heat is sufficient.

Make sure you correctly cook the meat before serving it. There is a possibility that the meat might contain toxic bacteria or parasites that can be harmful to your health.

Cooking it well on both sides ensures the elimination of any such contaminations.

Conclusion

Pigeons have long been enjoyed as a source of food. Contrary to our popular beliefs, it is safe to eat a pigeon as long as it is bred and raised according to human consumption standards.

Feral or wild pigeons, highly invasive, that we see flying around the city squares and nesting at any place they find are unsafe to eat, even if you find them dead.

If you wish to learn more about different species and what they eat and how you can attract them, read my blog about what you can feed to cardinal and entice them to your yard.

What do Cardinals Eat? Feed Them This to Attract Them!

Are you in search of the best feed that you can provide to attract Cardinals to your backyard? Read ahead to find out more about it.

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By Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Iñigo Navarro Picture

Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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