What Birds Do People Eat? A Global Guide To Edible Avians

From American turkey to Chinese Peking duck, bird meat has been enjoyed around the world throughout history. But with over 10,000 avian species on the planet, which feathered fowls actually end up on our plates?

While chickens may be the most common bird consumed, many other avians are considered delicacies.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The most commonly eaten bird species globally are chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, pigeons, ostriches, quail, pheasant, guineafowl, and grouse. However, regional cuisines feature many other edible birds like goose, swan, and songbirds.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll identify the most popular avians used for meat and eggs worldwide. We’ll also highlight some of the rarest edible bird species, from past to present. Let’s dig in to the diversity of birds on the human menu!

Top Birds Commonly Eaten


Chicken is undoubtedly one of the most popular birds consumed worldwide. Its tender and flavorful meat makes it a versatile ingredient in various cuisines. From fried chicken in the United States to tandoori chicken in India, there are countless delicious ways to prepare this bird.

According to Statista, chicken is the most consumed meat globally, with an estimated 98.5 million metric tons consumed in 2020.


Another bird commonly found on dinner tables around the world is duck. Known for its rich and succulent meat, duck is a favorite in many Asian cuisines. From Peking duck in China to roasted duck in France, this bird offers a unique and distinctive flavor.

Did you know that duck meat is generally higher in fat than chicken? This gives it a deliciously rich taste and a crispy skin when cooked properly.


While not as widely consumed as chicken or duck, goose is still a popular choice for special occasions and festive meals. The tender and flavorful meat of the goose is often praised for its richness. In many European countries, roast goose is a traditional holiday dish, particularly during Christmas.

The meat is typically juicy, and the skin can become wonderfully crispy when cooked correctly.


Turkey is a bird that needs no introduction, especially during Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States. Its large size makes it ideal for feeding a crowd, and its meat is known for its tenderness and mild flavor.

Turkey can be roasted, grilled, or even smoked, offering a range of delicious options for any occasion. According to the National Turkey Federation, approximately 46 million turkeys are consumed in the United States on Thanksgiving alone.


Pigeon, also known as squab, may not be as commonly consumed as other birds on this list, but it holds a special place in certain culinary traditions. In many cultures, pigeon meat is considered a delicacy due to its tender texture and rich flavor.

It is often prepared by roasting, braising, or even pan-frying. Pigeon is particularly popular in Middle Eastern and French cuisines, where it is often served in elegant and gourmet dishes.

While these are just a few examples, there are many other species of birds that people consume around the world. It’s important to note that regulations and cultural preferences vary, so what may be considered a delicacy in one country might not be as popular in another.

Whether it’s chicken, duck, goose, turkey, or pigeon, exploring different bird meats can be a fascinating culinary adventure.

Game Birds

Game birds are a popular choice for those looking to try something different when it comes to poultry. These birds are known for their unique flavors and textures, making them a favorite among adventurous eaters. Here are some commonly consumed game birds:


Pheasant is a game bird that is widely consumed in many parts of the world. Its meat is known for being tender and flavorful, with a slightly gamey taste. Pheasant can be prepared in various ways, including roasting, grilling, or even slow-cooking.

It is often served with rich sauces and paired with hearty sides like roasted potatoes or wild rice.


Quail is a small game bird that is prized for its delicate and succulent meat. It is commonly consumed in many cultures and can be found on the menus of high-end restaurants. Quail meat is known for its rich flavor, which is often described as a combination of chicken and game.

It can be cooked whole or used in dishes like stews or pastas.


Partridge is another popular game bird that is widely consumed. It is known for its lean meat, which has a mild and delicate flavor. Partridge can be cooked in various ways, including roasting, braising, or even grilling.

It pairs well with a variety of herbs and spices and is often served with seasonal vegetables.


Grouse is a game bird that is highly prized for its rich and distinctive flavor. It has dark meat that is tender and moist, making it a favorite among game meat enthusiasts. Grouse can be cooked in a variety of ways, including roasting, smoking, or even pan-searing.

It is often served with sauces made from berries or mushrooms to complement its robust taste.

When it comes to game birds, it’s important to note that hunting regulations and availability may vary depending on your location. Always ensure that you are sourcing game birds from reputable sources and adhering to local hunting and harvesting guidelines.

Exotic and Rare Delicacies

For adventurous food enthusiasts looking to expand their culinary horizons, there are a variety of exotic and rare bird species that are considered delicacies in certain parts of the world. These avian delicacies offer unique flavors and textures that can add a touch of novelty to any dining experience.


One of the most well-known exotic birds consumed by humans is the ostrich. Native to Africa, ostrich meat is low in fat and cholesterol while being rich in protein. Its flavor is often described as similar to beef, but with a slightly sweeter taste.

Ostrich meat is commonly used in dishes like steaks, burgers, and sausages. It’s also a popular choice for jerky due to its lean nature.


While swans are often associated with grace and beauty, they are also consumed in certain parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, for example, swan meat was historically considered a delicacy reserved for the royal family.

However, it is worth noting that in many countries, including the UK, hunting and eating swans is illegal due to their protected status.


In some cultures, particularly in parts of Europe and Asia, certain songbirds are considered a rare delicacy. These small birds, such as ortolan bunting in France or quail in Italy, are typically served whole and are eaten in a single bite.

The tradition of consuming songbirds dates back centuries and is often associated with elaborate rituals and culinary experiences.

It is important to note that the consumption of exotic bird species has raised ethical concerns and has led to regulations aimed at protecting endangered species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) provides valuable information on the conservation status of bird species around the world.

It is always recommended to research and ensure the legality and sustainability of consuming any bird species before considering it as a culinary option.

Eggs from Edible Species

Chicken Eggs

When it comes to eggs, chicken eggs are by far the most popular and widely consumed worldwide. They are a staple in many diets and can be found in various cuisines across the globe. Chicken eggs are versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes, from breakfast classics like omelets and scrambled eggs to baked goods like cakes and cookies.

They are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, making them a nutritious addition to any meal.

Quail Eggs

While not as common as chicken eggs, quail eggs are gaining popularity in many culinary circles. These small eggs have a unique flavor and are often considered a delicacy. Quail eggs are commonly used in Asian cuisines, particularly in dishes like sushi, salads, and soups.

They are also enjoyed on their own as a snack or appetizer. Despite their small size, quail eggs pack a nutritional punch, containing high levels of protein, iron, and vitamin B12.

Duck Eggs

Duck eggs, with their larger size and rich flavor, are another type of edible egg that is enjoyed by many people. They have a higher fat content compared to chicken eggs, which gives them a creamy and indulgent texture.

Duck eggs are commonly used in baking, as their unique properties can result in richer and moister cakes and pastries. Additionally, they are a popular choice for making salted eggs, a delicacy in many Asian cuisines.

While chicken, quail, and duck eggs are the most commonly consumed edible bird eggs, it is worth noting that there are other species whose eggs are also consumed in certain regions. For example, goose eggs and ostrich eggs are less common but can be found in specialty markets and are often used in gourmet cooking.

If you are interested in learning more about the nutritional value and culinary uses of eggs, you can visit www.eggnutritioncenter.org, a reliable source of information on eggs and egg nutrition.

Preparing Birds for the Table

When it comes to enjoying birds as a culinary delight, proper preparation is key. Here are some essential steps to ensure a delicious dining experience:

Cleaning and Dressing

Before cooking a bird, it’s important to clean and dress it properly. This involves removing the feathers, internal organs, and any excess fat. It is recommended to pluck the feathers and remove the entrails carefully to preserve the bird’s flavor and texture.


Brining is a popular technique used to enhance the flavor and tenderness of birds. It involves soaking the bird in a saltwater solution, sometimes with added herbs and spices, for a period of time before cooking.

Brining helps to infuse the meat with moisture and seasoning, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful dish.


Marinating is another method to add flavor and tenderness to bird meat. By soaking the bird in a mixture of oil, acid (such as vinegar or citrus juice), and spices, the meat absorbs the marinade’s flavors. This process can take a few hours or overnight, depending on the desired intensity of flavor.

Cooking Methods

There are various cooking methods that can be used to prepare birds for the table. Some popular options include:

  • Roasting: Roasting is a classic method that involves cooking the bird in an oven at a high temperature. This method creates a crispy skin and tender meat.
  • Grilling: Grilling birds over an open flame imparts a smoky flavor and creates a delicious charred exterior.
  • Deep frying: Deep frying birds results in a crispy, golden skin and moist meat. This method is especially popular for turkeys during festive occasions.
  • Braising: Braising involves cooking the bird slowly in a liquid, such as broth or wine, until it becomes tender and flavorful.

Each cooking method offers unique flavors and textures, so it’s worth experimenting to find the perfect preparation technique for your favorite bird.

Remember, it’s important to ensure that the bird is cooked thoroughly to avoid any potential health risks. Using a meat thermometer is recommended to ensure the bird reaches the appropriate internal temperature.

For more detailed instructions on preparing specific types of birds, you can consult reputable cooking websites like Cooking Light or Food Network.


From backyard coops to wild wetlands, birds worldwide have long provided sustenance. While chicken remains the most popular, other species like duck, goose, and ostrich also grace dinner tables.

The next time you enjoy a poultry dish, consider the incredible diversity of edible birds on the planet. With over 10,000 avian species, there may be even more flavors still to be discovered!

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