Tastes Like Chicken: Why So Many Bird Meats Taste The Same And How To Tell Some Apart

Obtaining a palate that allows you to immediately discern the difference between regular roasting chickens and specialty bird meats takes time. Since many birds, domestic and game, are seasoned in the same way, this can also make it difficult to decipher what bird you are eating. If you want to become a bird meat expert--or at least look like one--there are some characteristics that will help you figure out what you are consuming at a dinner party when your host does not tell you what is on the menu.


Waterfowl are often gamey, mostly dark meat, and regularly have a slightly greasier taste because of the special oils in their flesh. These oils help them stay afloat on the water, keeping the water from seeping through their plumes and feathers and pulling them under the current. When a duck, for example, is the main course, you will notice that the cook or chef has taken pains to either remove the oily skin or has cooked it in such a way that the natural oils do not affect the meat. This may include frying the duck or waterfowl, charring and searing the skin while roasting the flesh afterwards, or broasting the duck or waterfowl without its skin. Duck is also the smallest waterfowl to be served, so anything similar but larger is probably goose, swan, etc.

Small Land Fowl

Squab, pigeon, rock Cornish game birds, and poussin chicken for sale in the store all look very similar. However, these small land fowl have their own tastes, sizes, and colors. Pigeon will be the smallest of these birds, barely a couple of mouthfuls, and the meat is very dark and gamey.

Squab is actually baby chicks before they get their pin feathers; their meat is extremely tender and they are a little bigger and much lighter in color than pigeon.

Poussin chickens (also known as spring chickens) are a little bit larger and closely resemble a full-sized roasting chicken with its white and dark meat. However, poussin chickens are actually less than a month old, so they still won't be as large as other chicken dishes you may have. You will probably be served only a quarter section of a poussin bird at a party, and you will notice that the meat is not as chewy as a full-sized chicken's.

Lastly, rock Cornish game birds are bigger than squab and are actually full-sized chickens weighing about 2 lbs (poussin chickens are usually about 1 lb). Most dinner hosts will cut a Cornish game bird in half because half a bird is more than enough meat for anyone.