Bird Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning
Bird tattoos can make for stunning pieces of art. They’re colorful, detailed, and can be customized in countless ways to suit your message and personality. We’ll discuss some common designs, which species to choose, how to decide on colors, and where to place the ink.
The Meaning of Birds
There are over 15,000 species of birds on the planet. Each has its peculiarities and could be used to symbolize different traits and messages in tattoos. There can also be different symbolisms to the feathers of various species, so if you don’t want to get a whole bird tattooed on you, a feather might be a good option.
Some general interpretations associated with these feathered beauties include:
It makes perfect sense that, to us earth-bound humans, the bird would symbolize freedom.
These feathery creatures can roam the Earth and the skies, seeing life from a unique point of view. Some often migrate, so they’re basically the world’s best travelers—who among us doesn’t envy that?
If you’ve ever yearned to travel, to experience new things, and see life from a different perspective, this ink may be the perfect symbol for what you seek. Those who travel a lot may get a flying swallow tattoo, or perhaps a whole flock, to symbolize their freedom.
Another popular freedom-related illustration is that of a bird looking out over a mountain range. It adds emphasis to the theme that for the wearer, like the bird, the world is open.
This is quite similar to freedom but is less about the experience and more about making your own decisions and choosing your own actions. A bird in the sky is the perfect symbol for this. It’s interpreted to mean that you go where you want, do what you want to, and when you want to do them.
A lone bird with its wings spread is another example of a typical design symbolizing independence. A great idea would be to go for a powerful species, like the eagle, to emphasize the theme.
Pair a brightly-colored birdie tat with other elements representing joy, such as hearts or stars, for a great design. Those who love music may choose to get a songbird tattoo and incorporate music notes.
In many cultures, birds are the link between Heaven and Earth. They can move between the two as they wish, and so they’ve come to be known as a representation of the human soul and eternal life.
Those who’ve lost someone dear to them may get a tattoo, usually a dove, to symbolize the free soul of their loved one.
Common Birds and Their Symbolisms
When it comes to tattoos, unless there’s a very special personal symbolism behind it, most people don’t get dodos or pigeons inked onto their skin. That’s not to say these feathery creatures aren’t wonderful and meaningful symbols, but some species are more likely than others to find themselves the subject of body art.
Some commonly seen bird tattoos include:
These nocturnal creatures represent wisdom. This meaning is founded in folklore from all over the world and leans more towards the wisdom of the soul than intelligence.
Owls are mysterious birds, appearing mostly at night and are associated with rituals, magic, ancient knowledge, and prophecy.
Dark, brooding owl tattoo designs can embody that mystery and magic. If you want something more symbolic of intelligence and wisdom, a more colorful owl paired with something like a book or a scroll would be a unique design.
Main interpretations: wisdom, mystery, magic.
Eagles are majestic—considered as the kings of the skies.
There’s a reason these beauties are America’s national emblem. They represent the coming together of beauty and strength.
Those who are particularly patriotic may get an eagle artwork that incorporates the national flag. A raptor patterned like a flag would work, so would an eagle holding a flag.
People in leadership positions might get a tattoo of a majestic eagle in flight. To show its driven and authoritative nature, you might design a piece that involves the raptor hunting—such as an eagle grasping a smaller, more helpless creature in its talons.
Main interpretations: majesty, strength, power, focus, leadership.
These tiny birds aren’t only brightly and beautifully colored, but they also have some amazing characteristics that set them apart. They have superb control, and can fly backward, hover, come to an instant stop mid-flight, and flap their wings up to 80 times per second, creating the hum they’re named after.
To remind yourself that you’re in control of your life, a brightly colored tiny hummingbird tattoo works. You may want to add a flower for extra beauty.
Main interpretations: beauty, joy, magic, uniqueness, sweetness.
The phoenix has extremely powerful symbolism. Although this is a mythological bird, it represents strength, tenacity, and the sheer will to rise again after life knocks you down.
The phoenix can’t be its powerful self without some form of destruction first. It reminds us that, although setbacks are part of life, we have the ability and strength to rise again after being broken.
To represent power and rebirth, pair the phoenix with striking flames. Other elements you could consider adding include lightning and smoke to emphasize the theme.
An idea to show the cycle of destruction and renewal is to have half the phoenix in black ink, and the other half in bright, fiery color.
Main interpretations: rebirth, renewal, transformation, strength, tenacity.
Popular Bird Tattoo Designs
Here are some of the most popular bird tattoo designs:
These types of bird tattoos are very detailed and contain amazingly shaded colors. An eagle may be best presented in a bold style with stark colors, while a hummingbird might be better in a fine art style with shaded colors.
There are so many ways a bird tattoo can be interpreted and drawn. Some interesting and beautiful artistic designs include:
If you’re an artist, you might want to get a bird image in the particular style of art you favor.
Flying or Perched
The tat of a bird in flight is a good illustration of optimism and drive to achieve. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t depict one perched. Owls and eagles are often depicted in a perched position, which shows their majesty and beauty.
You could also customize your birdie by having it seated on something specific, such as a wire, a tree branch, or a rock. For gothic-styled tats, a dark bird, like a raven, perched on a crooked tree would emphasize the theme and add mystery to the art.
You can also carry a theme by having a bird gripping something in its claws—a smaller creature to show its power or a flower or heart for something a bit more peaceful.
Common Bird Tattoo Colors
You may choose to have your tattoo inked in red to show passion, yellow for happiness, or green for a link to nature.
Black ink is excellent for gothic and gloomy themed illustrations. White or other brightly colored ink can be used to add contrast to the art.
This is where you get to make the tattoo your own, and add in extra symbolism. Different colors are associated with different emotions and can add a layer of feeling to your body art.
Common Body Placement for Bird Tattoos
Bird tattoos can be placed virtually anywhere, but here are the most inked spots:
The back is a wonderful space for a tattoo of a bird in flight, especially if you want something large and impressive, like an eagle.
The shoulder is a nice position as it implies a perch, so it’s a good spot for a sitting bird tattoo.
Other meaningful places include the chest, close to your heart, behind the ear—to show the mindset of freedom and independence—and the ankle, to illustrate a willingness to move on after life knocks you back a few.