Bird tattoos have always been popular, especially easily recognized birds such as eagles, owls and sparrows. New tattoo equipment and techniques have allowed tattoo artists to create tattoos in a wider range of styles. This broader choice also applies to the variety of birds that people are having tattooed into their skin.
The Meaning of Bird Tattoos
Many ancient cultures have attached spiritual meanings to each bird species. Each type of bird has its own meaning and symbolizes an emotion, a character attribute or a personality trait of human beings. This animal symbolism is often referred to as the “totem” of the animal. A “totem” is a spiritual guide, a kindred soul or an ancestor who was non-human. Although most people associate totems with North American Indians, they is not limited to this region, appearing in ancient cultures from around the world.
Eagles are one of the classic subjects for bird tattoos. Eagles are symbolic of a number of things, but it is widely agreed upon that they represent wisdom, courage, healing and spiritual strength. Eagles are predators and are therefore at the top of the avian food chain. There is little in this world that an eagle needs to be afraid of, as most other birds are smaller than it, and it can either fight off or fly away from other predators. They are linked to immortality, freedom and fearlessness. Some ancient cultures revered eagles as being spiritual messengers who could carry a message to the heavens, to deceased loved ones or ancestors.
Swallows are migratory birds that are easily recognizable due to their forked tail. Traditional swallow tattoos were worn by sailors, and so it has become a symbol of naval travel and navigation. Swallows migrate back and forth across the globe, always returning to Europe in the spring. Swallow tattoos are a symbol of loyalty and home-coming, a promise that no matter how far away they may travel, they will always return.
The meaning of owls has changed over time. In Medieval Europe, owls represented doom and the finality of death. In our modern times, owls have come to represent wisdom, patience and silence. When owls hunt, they can sit for hours watching their prey, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When they finally do attack, they are quick and silent, disappearing into the night again without a trace. Owl tattoos are often slightly ominous, due to this bird’s associations with darkness and death.
Peacocks are a popular bird tattoo with women, due to their colorful, patterned feathers. The irony of peacock tattoos on women is that it is only the male peacock that is so decorative. The female peacock (a peahen) is a dull brown grey color and doesn’t have the impressive tail of her mate. The male peacock’s tail is made up of dozens of feathers that appear to have eyes on the ends. Because of these eyes and the flashy nature of the bird, peacock tattoos have come to represent pride, beauty, watchfulness and an awareness of self and others. Learn more about peacock tattoos in: Peacock Tattoos display Color and Beauty
Flamingo tattoos are a symbol of grace and balance. This colorful pink bird has a large, attractive beak and long legs and can be posed in a number of ways on the skin. The most popular tattoo design of a flamingo is a side view of the bird that shows a profile of the bird lifting one foot with the neck curved gracefully above the back. Flamingos are fun, colorful birds and yet they are also a very peaceful, social species. Both the symbolism and aesthetic appeal of flamingos have made this bird a popular bird tattoo choice.
Kingfishers are small birds who live near bodies of water and catch fish by hovering over the water, aiming and then dropping with speed to catch the fish. They often plunge under water to catch the fish, taking flight from the surface of the water while carrying their prey in a show of strength and agility than one doesn’t expect from a creature the size of a kingfisher. The meaning of kingfisher tattoos can be found in the beauty, dignity and speed of the bird. Because of the kingfisher’s hunting techniques, a kingfisher tattoo can represent a person’s willingness to go out of their element (from air to water) in order to get what they want in life.
The hummingbird is a fascinating little bird who is able to hover next to a flower and sip its nectar before flitting away again. Hummingbirds can hover because they flap their wings incredibly fast – so fast that to the naked eye their wings are just a blur. So fast, in fact, that some people have wondered if maybe, possibly, these little birds can stop time. Hummingbird tattoos represent intrigue, magic and the marvel of life. This little bird has become a symbol of the permanence of nature and time.
Roosters are famed for their role on farms as an alarm clock to wake the farmer and his animals. Roosters crow at the first light of day, banishing the night with their cry and announcing the dawning of a new day. Because of this daily ritual, rooster tattoos symbolize the banishment of dark, evil forces and spirits, while inviting and appreciating the brightness of all things new. Rooster tattoos are worn by optimists who look towards the future without allowing themselves to be burdened by the dark aspects of their past. Wear a rooster with care, however; they are bossy animals and will fight to the death with any other bird that they don’t like. In Feng Shui, roosters represent leadership in business through having a bossy attitude and success that has been taken, not achieved.
Doves are the universal symbol of peace and forgiveness. White doves are the usual choice for symbolizing peace, clarity of heart and forgiveness, though grey and brown doves can be used for the same purpose. Doves represent the wish for long, peaceful relationships and are often used in political ceremonies or international celebrations as a sign that all parties involved wish for the negotiations or celebrations to commence in a peaceful, calm manner. Doves are also linked with death and endings, due to their release at funerals. Because of this, dove tattoos are often chosen to symbolizes the end of a difficult time in someone’s life and the peace and hope that they have come to feel in the aftermath of turmoil.