Catch the Pigeon

21st March 2013

Today’s Wild Food Diary is looking at a bird as a opposed to a plant, as I spotted this bird feeding on the grass outside a leisure center whilst waiting to pick my daughter up from swimming.  


Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
The Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus is the largest and commonest species of pigeon found in the UK. It a resident bird and there are thought to be around 3 million breeding pairs in the UK. It can be easily identified from other members of the pigeon family by the distinct white bars on the wings and on mature birds the white collar around the neck, which begin to develop when the bird is about 6 months old.

They were as the name suggests originally woodland birds but they are now equally at home farmland, parks and gardens as long as they have trees in which to roost and nest in. The build a flimsy nest of twigs and lay normally two white eggs. Wood Pigeons have been recorded as breeding in every month of the year.

Their traditional food is a mixture of shoots, bugs, seeds and berries. Acorns and Ivy berries are often consumed. However, these days the have the tendency to feed on arable crops including grains, kale, rape seed etc. When you consider that each bird can consume 100g of food a day, you then multiply that by the number of birds in the UK it amounts to up to 600 metric tonnes of food a day! No wonder they are considered a pest species.

Because of this they are shot in large numbers and can be  obtained from butchers and game dealers easily and cheaply. They are considered the “tastiest and meatiest” of our native pigeons, the meat is very dark and quite strong tasting.  It is best cooked either very quickly and served quite rare or braised for a long while. In between it can be quite tough.  Generally it is only the breast meat that is worth bothering with, although the carcasses do make great stock. Young birds (determined by the paler, pink flesh, flexible breast bone and less wrinkled skin) can be roasted whole, older birds are best braised.

Your butcher will no doubt prepare the pigeon for you if required, but if you are up to doing it yourself it may be cheaper. Over the next three days we will show you three different ways of preparing a pigeon.

Kev Palmer

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