Saturday, 22 February 2014

London Locavore: Wood Pigeon

Five wood pigeons and a Rock dove

Lots being written and blogged about the Locavore diet recently, (food footsteps not food miles) but most of it is about growing vegetables or buying vegetables from someone near by.Where's the protein?
A by product of growing your own is crops in the suburbs is raiding by Pigeons and Squirrels, think of it as the Pigeons and Squirrels inviting themselves for a snack and staying to dinner. As the main course.

London's Grey Squirrel population seems to have been hammered by the recent cold  winter so they are off the menu for the time being. For the main course we'll be having  Wood Pigeon - these are the pigeons with a band of white around their necks.

In the UK you're allowed to shoot pests in your garden as long as the projectile doesn't leave the boundary of your property, so having ruled out the .50 sniper rifles, so with your air rifle over seedlings is probably your best bet.

As anyone who's been pigeon shooting with shotguns will tell you they are pretty much pellet proof unless you can entice them into close range, with an air rifle shooting roosting or bait eating birds head or spine shots at about 30 ft are the way to do it.

Pluck and refrigerate - pretty straight forward, if you want to eat the whole bird pluck the feathers in the direction in which they lie otherwise you'll get a lot of rips in the skin. I usually just eat the breasts pan fried but I'm on a nose-to-tail tip at the moment.  Pigeons really seem to benefit from being hung for a week or more, if that not an option, at least stood in the fridge for a couple of days.

While this post was in the making I saw a TV show mention that the manky Rock Doves from Trafalgar square that we think of as flying rats are actually NOT carriers of any diseases that are transferable to humans, then I saw that Jackson Landers AKA our friend The Locavore Hunter has been eating them in the US. You can see his film about it HERE. If I can get myself past the life long assumption that they are inherently unhealthy they represent an unlimited source of free local food. I tried the Rock Dove pictured; didn't die and wasn't able to tell the difference in a blindfold taste test.

If you can't safely shoot where you are, try calling your local pest controllers - once you convince them it's not a crank call - they're very likely to be able to help out as most of them are shooting gents themselves. One pest control guy I spoke to suggested traps and an air pistol are the way forward for the dedicated locavore. The Trapman sells traps for just about anything you'd want to eat trap.

Hardcore Preppers will tell you that as the oil crisis starts to bite this will be how we all get our inner city dinner. For more about the history of Urban hunting see HERE

More Soon


Anonymous said...

You can eat just about anything as long as you cook it for long enough and at a high enough temp to kill off all the nasty bugs that might be lurking in the meat. What it tastes like is another matter entirely. Badger hams use to be quite popular down in the west country.

If you want a serious number of woodies for the freezer I suggest doing a bit of pigeon decoying. I shot 90 on Saturday morning that were keen to feed on some OSR. Had to pack up at 1.00 as I was needed elsewhere. I'll be running them into the gamedealers later today.


Phillip said...

Across most of the US, we've been invaded by the eurasian collared dove. As a non-native, invasive species, most states allow pretty liberal harvest of the birds. Here in TX, there's no season and no limit (as long as you don't screw up and shoot mourning, whitewing, inca, or rock doves).

I've taken to popping them from time to time from my front porch with the Benjamin... usually just enough for a solid meal (two or three birds will do). Using the pellet gun allows me to be careful about which birds I shoot... and it's not so noisy as the 12 gauge.

Chad Love said...

I've never eaten pigeon, but like Phillip I do potshot some of the Eurasian collared dove off the bird feeder (in season only. Unfortunately we don't have an open season on the invasive little bastards in Oklahoma).

However, pigeons must be more common table fare than what you'd think. Last year I needed a dozen pigeons for some dog work so I drove out to this old backwoods lady's house who was advertising homers for sale on Craigslist. When I got there she led me to a bog coop with 75-100 pigeons in it. I asked her if she sold mainly to dog trainers, and she looked at me with squinty eyes, squirted a huge stream of tobacco juice into the dust at her feet (no shit, really happened) and said (and I quote verbatim...)

"Nope, lotsa people et 'em."

So there you go. It's perfectly normal to et a pigeon, says crazy backwoods Deliverance pigeon lady...

Actually, I see no reason why rural pigeons that subsist mainly on grains wouldn't taste pretty much like a dove, and in an urban apocalypse setting I'd probably "et" the little urban sky rats...

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Really! No shit sherlock

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


We sometimes shoot them in barns too where shot huns would do too much damage

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Oh why oh why was I not there with you? That's a dream come true to me.

Here they are the blue collar gamebird, shot not over peasants but a thing called a 'pigeon magnet' which is a windshield wiper motor with two arms welded on and a dead pigeon strapped to the end of each.

But back to food
You don't know what you've been missing, i would eat pigeon over pheasant, chicken, rook, turkey and partridge any day. Served super rare they are like fillet steak, cooked a bit more like a beef/liver hybrid, cooked with strong flavors like beetroot, they are amazing.
If you get a couple you can eat the breasts seared as a starter, and then the carcass meat cooked in a pressure cooker until it falls from the bones and as the filling for ravioli. Obs 70%+ chocolate for afters. A big red and some laphroaig would be perfect.


Ron said...

Why not try some pigeonsoup?
Plenty of recipes to be found.

Anonymous said...


I don't use a "whirly", just a couple of floaters and a flapper to create some eye catching movement in the pattern.

Don't do anything fancy with `em when I eat 'em. Just spatchcock 'em and whack 'em in a hot oven for 12/15 mins depending on how hot I've manage to get the Stanley.

A big helping of champ, some braised cabbage and away you go.



Brian said...

I've never asked how pigeon tastes, because when I see them, they look so nasty. I never would think of actually eating them unless I was in a need-to-eat situation. Great article though!

Chas Clifton said...

In farm country where corn (maize) is stored in large, galvanized metal bins, pigeons will sometimes roost in open, empty bins, (like these) flying in and out the opening at the top.

Typically, one person hammers the side with his fist -- hence the name "bin-thumping," while the other stands off a short distance hoping to shoot a pigeon flying out the top.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


A bit like ferreting, just without ferrets and with pigeons! I shall see if I can give that a go in Spain in the summer

Dustin said...

I haven't ate pigeon but I've often wondered how different it could be from dove.

Anonymous said...

"A bit like ferreting, just without ferrets and with pigeons!"

Obviously you've not done a lot of ferreting then Sten.


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Still not mastered the search function then?

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