Wood Pigeon (roasted)


From my living room window, I can see 5 common wood pigeon doing their best to eat all the new shoots on a large elderflower tree. I find it quite ridiculous that 10 town pigeons sit watching them from a neighbouring rooftop. The diet of the wood pigeon consists of plants, fruits, berries, ants, worms, etc., while it’s feral cousin seems to live on leftover fast food and cigarette butts. Such is life. However, all is not complete bliss in wood pigeon world. Since this species of dove devours seed and sprouting vegetables, it’s classified (like it’s cousins and the rabbit) as vermin, so it’s open season on pigeon all year round!

walter pigeon

I went to market on Sunday, with the intention of buying a rabbit – last week the Pheasant Girl had a big pile of them – this week there were none! Looking at my half full glass, I bought a brace of pigeon and put in a request for two rabbits next week.

Pigeon are quite small in comparison to chicken, but they are about the size of a partridge and taste similar, perhaps slightly more gamey, but not as strong as pheasant. If you like either of those birds, you’ll love pigeon and they are available almost everywhere.

Roast Wood Pigeon recipe (1 bird per person):

1 pigeon (plucked and dressed)
2 large knobs of salted butter
a sprig of thyme
4 sage leaves
1 peeled and bruised clove of garlic
sea salt and cracked black pepper


Put a little salt and pepper, along with a knob of butter, the herbs and garlic inside the pigeon. Season the outside of the bird too. Heat an oven proof frying pan on the hob and have the oven ready at a temperature of 180ºC. The other knob of butter goes into the pan until it foams and melts.


Brown the pigeon all over for 8 minutes.


A little direct heat is OK on the breast, but for the most part, spoon the hot butter over the top as opposed to burning it directly, to avoid making the meat dry. When the time has elapsed, remove the bird to the oven for a further 12 minutes.


When done, wrap the pigeon in foil and turn it breast side down for 10 minutes before serving.

roast potatoes

While I was fiddling with the bird, I roasted potatoes in goose fat

bacon, sprouts and garlic

and a few Brussels sprouts, garlic and smoked streaky bacon (with a drizzle of olive oil).


I made a gravy with bacon fat, flour, chopped garlic and pheasant stock (chicken would be a good substitute).

Serve with a glass of brut cava from Castell d’Olerdola.

Other Pigeon posts

About Mad Dog

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27 Responses to Wood Pigeon (roasted)

  1. Eha says:

    OK! Methinks I get the idea: we watch with the town pigeons and then cook and thoroughly enjoy the wood pigeons! How dare they eat the first buds of spring anyways? A bf posted on ‘cacio e pepe’ this morning . . . this equals its simplicity: garlic, thyme and sage . . . all firm friends . . . .can’t promise a London bird, but shall do my best . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      It is weird as all pigeons are quite closely related. Those town ones are domesticated bids that have gone feral over thousands of years and it’s almost as if domestication’s made them loose their appetite for good food. Most birds are edible, so I’d have no qualms about eating country pigeon, but I definitely don’t fancy a feral townie bird.
      Apparently, pigeons have a real thing for elderflower leaves and racing pigeons are given an elderflower supplement in their food. The way they attack that tree it’s amazing the leaves grow at all, but in a few months it will be completely green and covered in blossom, so I imagine there’s some kind of pigeon/tree symbiosis.

  2. jmcheney says:

    It looks delicious. We ate “squab” during the war which Daddy shot on my great-uncle’s farm. I don’t know that we have wood pigeon in Kentucky. It must have been dove. It sure was good to my “dark meat loving” little girl’s taste buds. Mama probably didn’t add garlic way back then, but butter & sage for sure. Your’s looks the size of our cornish hen, also very tasty. I could never shoot a sweet mourning dove however (or anything, except once a copperhead snake once. It was hissing at my scottie, who wouldn’t back off).

    • Mad Dog says:

      I’m sure that dove taste the same and quite delicious. Your copperhead story made me laugh – I’ve been interested in tasting snake for a long time, though I’m sure you didn’t eat yours! I had a similar encounter with a baby diamondback in Georgia, which my cat found fascinating – fortunately I got the cat indoors and relocated the rattler with a garden fork, to the bottom of the garden and long grass.

      • jmcheney says:

        I have actually eaten snake, but didn’t realize it till after. I was being interviewed for an African safari secretary’s position. I promised to learn shorthand & Swahili immediately & then was served dinner which I thought was lobster(or frog leg) thermidor. It was rattlesnake thermidor. I passed that test but didn’t get the job, alas. I might have become another Jane Goodall.

        • Mad Dog says:

          Wow that sounds fantastic – I suspect it’s a bit like chicken, since frogs legs taste similar. Shame you didn’t get the job – you deserved it after that test.
          My farmer tells a story about the bank manager coming round for dinner. They had a delicious meat pie, but when told the pie was blackbird, the manger made a swift exit for the bathroom!

  3. ChgoJohn says:

    Seeing pigeons prepared sure does take me back, MD. Grandpa regularly brought them home. Like you, though, he/we shunned their city kin. “You are what you eat” doesn’t just apply to us. 🙂

  4. I seriously love the way you cook. First all sorts of pheasant and now pigeon. Is this something we really don’t eat in the US? I’ve seen it in French cooking. I’ve seen pheasants, rabbits, cornish hens, and even quails, but i have never seen a pigeon for sale. I’ve even had guinea pig in peru, but never a pigeon. Maybe I’m ignorant, but is a wood pigeon different from the ones in the street? I can totally see how one would not want to eat a pigeon from the subway. But seriously the way you make this makes me swoon. And that gravy. It’s like heaven.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Amanda! There not much physical difference other than plumage and I find it peculiar to see one type of pigeon living the high life, having a siesta in trees because they are too fat to move, while the other looks scrawny and hungry, scavenging for scraps.
      In France it’s not uncommon to keep pigeon and rabbits in the garden for food – I’m trying to work out how to grow an elderflower tree in my window box 😉

  5. Actually, i just reread the into and saw the difference. The wood pigeon is a little more handsome, and his diet is much more preferable than the subway pigeon’s which consists of as you say, cigarettes and maybe rat parts. I’d like to try the higher class cousin 🙂

  6. Ron says:

    MD, is there any other way of frying potatoes than in goose fat? We actually have a man just down the road that raises pigeons for the table. I just never have thought about cooking them, but now no excuses. I must give this on a try. Thanks for a great recipe and post…

    • Mad Dog says:

      Goose fat is definitely my favourite and I’m still using the fat from my Christmas dinner (so it smells like Christmas). Do try pigeon – if you like game birds you’ll love pigeon!

  7. Karen says:

    Butter basted pigeon, goose fat roasted potatoes and sprouts with bacon, you certainly know how to amp up food flavors, Mad Dog. 😀

  8. James Davies says:

    That’s a fine roast dinner! My mouth was watering, just looking at the pictures! I have not tasted pigeon for a while – I used to go shooting with my dad when I was a teenager, and we used to bring back rabbit and pigeon. My role was like a hunting dog – to run out and retrieve the game. Also to paunch, pluck and skin and prepare for the pot when we got back home. My mum used to make her fabulous game casserole – packed full of flavour. We used to have mashed potatoes and greens from the garden with it. I think that your roasted goose fat potatoes with brussels sprouts and bacon would be superb.

  9. Michelle says:

    That reminds me of one of Steve’s and my favorite stories from a very early visit to France. We didn’t recognize the word palombe on a menu. In half French/half English Steve was trying to communicate with the waiter about it, who finally said: “It is a travelling bird, sir.” Your travelling bird looks quite delicious.

  10. Haven’t eaten pigeon of any sort since we were in Spain when a neighbour used to supply us. Looks delicious!

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