Since ancient times, humans have admired birds for their ability to fly and their wisdom—at least, compared to other non-human animals. Their fluffy feathers and huge eyes strike a cute cord in our hearts, but don’t be fooled. These creatures descended from the dinosaurs themselves! In today’s article, let’s talk all about birds and how they inspire tattoo art. From the glare of an owl that strikes a fear of death in us, to the beautiful peacock feathers that depict wealth and royalty, we adopted the likeness of these birds in our tattoos, and each one means something special. If you don’t want to feel the incessant pecking of the tattoo needle, check out lidocaine cream. Otherwise, scroll down and check out the best bird tattoos out there!
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Culture, nationality, personality, or desire—every aspect of a person’s life can show through in a bird tattoo. Whether you want to check out some neat bird tattoo designs, reference them for your own design work, or simply want to decipher someone else’s bird tattoo, this article will cover all your needs and more. So sit back, relax, and prepare yourself for a gallery of birds, birds, and more birds!
Meaning of Bird Tattoos
What do birds symbolize? As it turns out, quite a lot! Because of their amazing flight abilities, many cultures associate birds with the heavens. Of course, the diverse birds carry many individual meanings as well. From the stern hawk to the strong eagle to the mysterious owl, these creatures invoke their own unique meaning in our cultures. On top of that, the number of birds sometimes affects their meaning.
While we can’t cover every bird in the animal kingdom, we can go over the ones that make for amazing tattoos. Follow through each description to find the details on each type of bird tattoo. Looking for something all your own? Finding your bird becomes simple if you know yourself inside and out! Try to find a bird that matches your personality, your ethic, or your drive. Each bird tattoo tells a story, ranging from mythic reverence to personal significance. You decide where you sit on that scale, and no matter what, your tattoo shows a work of art!
Bird Tattoo Locations
Before getting your tattoo, consider where to put it first. If you work in a blue-collar position, consider getting your tattoo in a subtle place. A tattoo on your back, foot, chest, and stomach will remain hidden for your daily tasks, allowing you to skip the whole work place dress code thing. You can also choose your shoulder, if you don’t usually wear short sleeves. Unfortunately, some co-workers may judge you for getting a tattoo, and that becomes especially worrying if your boss does it, too. Always double-check your company’s tattoo policy, but also remember that you can do whatever you want to your body. It belongs to you, after all, not some controlling employer!
If you work in a lax office or if you don’t care what others think, then choose wherever you like! Bird tattoos on your arm or wrist will flash whenever you pick something up or shake someone’s hand, but you can also wear long sleeves to hide them when you need to. Bird tattoos on your neck flaunt your personality to everyone who passes by. Some bird tattoo meanings change depending on where you get them, so read on for more details about tattoo locations. If you are worried about the location being sensitive to pain, ask your artist about tattoo numbing cream.
Blue Jay Tattoos
Closely related to crows and ravens, these blue birds share their cleverness, but wield a bit of their own bravery. Known for their territorial behavior, fearlessness against larger foes, and ability to deal with problems of all types, blue jays won a place in the hearts of bird watchers and sports fans everywhere. A blue jay tattoo shows off your spunk, along with your determination, persistence, intelligence, and warrior spirit. Because these birds roost in particularly long-lived trees, we also associate them with longevity, intuition, and wisdom. If you feel protective of those you love, then you can understand why the blue jay acts the way it does.
A blue jay tattoo only needs two shades of blue ink and a solid black ink to shine. This, combined with the geometric pattern of their wing and tail feathers, makes them excellent subjects in all types of art styles. Whether you want a 3D tattoo, a cartoony tattoo, or an abstract tattoo, this bird remains instantly recognizable. Even old school tattoos highlight this bird’s beautiful feathers! Some top-notch tattoo ointment helps your tattoo retain its beautiful colors for decades.
While we usually see doves as pure white birds, they also come in all sorts of colors…although, we tend to call them pigeons when they show gray or black feathers. The dove represents maternal love, purity, innocence, sacrifice, peace, and more. Doves stop eating before their chicks hatch so they can create a special kind of milk for them. Not many birds feed their chicks like this, so even among birds, doves represent perfect parenting.
After the flood in Genesis, a dove returned bearing an olive branch, showing that the waters receded. Hachiman, a Japanese god of war, used the dove to symbolize peace after war. Along with peace, these examples show how the dove represents hope. A dove tattoo shows that you carry a hope for peace. Whether you care for someone ill, want to experience unconditional love, or hope your children will live in a good world, a dove tattoo cements your will in art form. While they might look plain on the outside, their meaning runs deeper than almost every other bird on this list!
Revered in countries and religions around the world, the regal eagle rules over the skies. Its huge size and amazing hunting behavior make it king among birds. National bird to the USA, the bald eagle represents patriotism, power, strength, justice, and more. On the other hand, many more countries chose the golden eagle to represent them, including Mexico, Afghanistan, Egypt, Germany, and Scotland. The golden eagle represents courage, adventure, strength, patriotism, balance, swiftness, and dignity. So, why do so many countries love the eagle, with its drab plumage and fierce stare? Simply put, eagles get down to business.
They waste no time during their hunts, and their lethal ability inspires some falconers to use them during hunts. At the same time, they look like the most peaceful being in existence when they soar upon the thermals. This balance of strength and peace represents what many countries stand for. An eagle tattoo shows everyone that they can’t push you around, but also that you have a strong sense of justice. If you are an artist trying to ink an intricate eagle tattoo, use a specialized tattoo chair to help reach every angle of your client.
Flock of Birds Tattoos
Birds rarely travel alone. They flock together in order to gain safety in numbers. On top of that, these social creatures need friends and companions in order to lead a healthy life…just like humans! Because of their similarities to us, birds represent freedom and joy. Their ability to fly away from danger and migrate great distances makes us pretty jealous! Or at least me. I don’t know about you. Anyways, a flock of birds tattoo represents freedom pretty clearly. Birds flying from a cage represent a new stage in your life, flower petals turning into birds represent a carefree lifestyle, and a feather turning into a flock represents hope.
On top of that, a flock of birds represents your friends, family, and acquaintances that you meet throughout life. You decide whether each bird represents someone specific or pays homage to any stranger you pass. Remember that the birds don’t float in a void—if they started somewhere, they will end up somewhere. Life is a journey, and one day you will reach your paradise. Laying down on the tattoo bed and feeling the needle on your skin really drives it home.
You might mistake one of these tiny birds for a buzzing insect if you don’t look fast! An individual from any species of these colorful cuties could fit in the palm of your hand. They can hover to and fro and even go backwards when they want to, a feat that no other bird can boast. At night or in times of cold, they enter torpor, a slumber so deep that they look and feel dead. You can pick them up and everything, they won’t budge. They migrate across continents, following the blooming flowers.
Hummingbirds represent raw energy and life. Their rarity also makes them good luck, and some people take their appearance as a message from the heavens! Their vibrant feathers and amazing color patterns make hummingbirds beautiful tattoo subjects. A hummingbird tattoo shows perseverance, joy, and liveliness. Because they appear to die at night, only to wake up in the morning, hummingbird tattoos also represent rebirth. Life doesn’t last forever, so live life to the fullest, just like a hummingbird!
If eagles rule the skies during the day, owls rule them at night. These birds use their huge eyes and ears to hunt in pure darkness, relying on their downy feathers to keep their approach silent. Those big eyes also look amazingly cute. Honestly, they look like flying cats. While owl feathers look drab and colorless, the patterns of their feathers lend themselves well to tattoo designs. Each owl has a unique pattern, so even owl tattoos with just black ink show up beautifully.
On top of that, each owl has its own meaning! Barn owls represent perception, courage, and productivity. Snowy owls represent magic, secrets, knowledge, and precognition. The great horned owl represents perception or a warrior spirit. A white-faced owl represents darkness, wisdom, and prophecy. Like eagles, most cultures associate owls with the heavens…although a bit more literally. Many cultures believe that the appearance of an owl represents death. Whether that means the owl itself is a dead soul on its way to heaven or a grim reaper of sorts depends on the culture.
Peacock feathers undeniably trump the beauty of every other bird out there. Maybe you’re into subdued earthy tones of the owls or the bright blue of bluebirds, but you still have to admit, peacock feathers exist solely for beauty. Males use their tails to attract mates. The bigger the tail and the more eyes it has, the more females a male can seduce. The eyes of peacock feathers connect this world to a world of gods. The gods look at the world through the peacock feathers, after all. White peacock feathers represent sadness, lost love, and misunderstanding—in the real world, white peacocks rarely score, despite their beauty.
A peacock feather tattoo accents your beauty. Placing a peacock feather tattoo just behind your ear makes it look like jewelry! Historically, peacocks served as spiritual guardians, so that meaning extends to tattoos of their feathers, too. A small dose of pride goes a long way in increasing your quality of life. A peacock feather tattoo reminds you to value yourself and treat yourself to live a fulfilling life.
This beautiful, mythical bird originated somewhere in the Middle East, although similar creatures appear in fables around the world. The phoenix obviously symbolizes rebirth, but did you know it symbolizes life, death, endurance, renewal, and the sun? Classic stories of the phoenix tell of a fiery eagle that would die in a fierce flame only to arise from the ashes. This story lies parallel to the narrative of the sun—where the sun sets at the end of the day, only to rise again. Eastern stories of the phoenix paint it as a vermillion pheasant that usually doesn’t burst into flames, but represents all the same things.
A phoenix tattoo reminds us that, though life throws tribulations like fire into our path, we can get through them and become a better person because of them. The disappearance of a phoenix represents chaos, while its appearance represents an era of prosperity. Understanding these cycles in your life helps you prepare during the good times so you can get through the bad times.
Ravens—and black birds in general—represent intelligence, intuition, curiosity, and creativity, thanks to their amazing cognitive abilities. But they also carry darker meanings—death, destruction, evilness, cruelty, and more. Ravens eat nuts and berries, but won’t pass up the chance to eat meat when available. These clever birds even point out weak animals or hard-to-open carrion to wolves so that they can feast together. A raven tattoo represents the macabre and pairs well with skulls and roses, which also represent death in their own way.
If you asked someone to pull up a traditional tattoo, they would almost certainly show you a picture of a sparrow tattoo done in Sailor Jerry’s iconic style. While they might appear small and humble, these birds lead a life of adventure. Sparrows migrate vast distances and remain ubiquitous across the globe, despite human encroachment. Because they migrate across seas and rest on boats, sparrows became a huge symbol for sailors during WWII. A sailor would earn their sparrow tattoo when they traveled 5,000 nautical miles. For ex-cons, a sparrow tattoo on the back of your hand reminds you to fly true in life and stay out of trouble.
Sparrows travel in large flocks and symbolize companionship. A pair of sparrows represents a completed journey or love found. Modern sparrow tattoos take on the meaning of love and run with it. A lonely sparrow is a rare sparrow, after all. Although our lives might seem trivial sometimes, we just need to look at the sparrow to know that our presence holds meaning to those around us.
Swallows share many of the same meanings as sparrow tattoos, since they also migrate vast distances and rest on sailing ships if need be. They show a few minute differences, though—especially where appearance comes in! A swallow’s tail splits into two scissor-like sections, allowing them to make incredible aerial maneuvers and catch insects straight out of the air. A sparrow’s tail looks straight on the end. A swallow tattoo traditionally uses blue and red ink.
Sailors claimed that swallows carried the souls of sailors killed at sea to heaven. Because they appear during warm summer months, they represent life, prosperity, joy, and peace. You can pair a swallow tattoo with roses to really give its romantic symbolism a boost. If the nautical theme interests you more, use the traditional Sailor Jerry style for your tattoo. While it might seem overused or too mainstream, remember that Sailor Jerry tattoos were a badge of honor for sailors! A swallow tattoo represents a journey through life, and we should all remember to enjoy and treasure it.
Hopefully, these delightful bird tattoos brightened up your day. Remember to click through to our detailed articles if you want to know more about a particular type of bird. All birds carry a diverse range of meanings, but ultimately, they represent an honest way of living. Whether you want to hone your intelligence, strength, or endurance, you can look to the birds for some pointers. While we can’t just fly whenever we run into a problem, we still have a lot of options when it comes to dealing with life. Don’t take your life for granted and use your abilities to the fullest, just like the birds do!