The World of Bird Tattoos: Symbolism and Meanings Revealed

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bird tattoo meanings

Bird tattoos are popular due to their beauty and the particular stories behind each species but tucked under their colorful wings lie hidden meanings and special messages. What is the meaning behind different bird tattoos or what bird symbolism can you use to express your own personal identity (tattoos have always been used as a means of identification)? Did you know that goldfinches appear in dreams and that a raven is an ancient omen of death? Birds are used throughout history to convey emotions, foresee prophecies, and guide people to safety.

Some people get them to represent their love for nature and the freedom that birds symbolize. Others may choose a bird tattoo to commemorate a loved one who passed away, or to celebrate life with an ornithological twist.

They also come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and designs. Let’s dive into what tale each of these birds has to share and what bird tattoo meaning is just right for you!

What Do Birds Symbolize?

Birds embody freedom and independence, whimsical spirits, and celestial messages. They also symbolize a higher calling and the ability to soar and reach for the sky! Each culture has its own spin on bird lore, and they are all fascinating and deeply meaningful. From Native American spirit guides to Celtic and Greek deities, birds have a deep root in history.

Meaning in Native American Culture

In Native American cultures, birds are granted as spirit guides to help people reach their full potential and navigate difficult periods in life. They show themselves to people during spiritual journeys and help individuals find a deeper connection to the natural world. Hawks, falcons, eagles, and even smaller birds like blue jays have manifested as guides to those who seek them. Aside from spirit guides, certain Native American deities have been presented as birds. The Thunderbird is a mythical bird from Native American lore and was said to create storms with its massive, beating wings.

Meaning in Celtic Culture

In Celtic mythology, birds are revered as messengers from God and can even be gods themselves. In Ireland, there is a goddess by the name of Morrigan who is represented by a crow who flies over battlefields and offers protection to soldiers. Because of her, in Celtic lore crow feathers are a sign of good luck and were often added to weapons. Similarly, the Celtic god of the ocean, Manannan Mac Lir, is seen as a gull and brings prosperity to fishermen.

Meaning in Greek Culture

In Greek mythology, birds represent deities and symbols of power. Hecate from Greek mythology was depicted as an owl. She could see in three different directions at once, similar to how an owl can turn its head to see all around its body. Arthemis, the goddess of the hunt and the moon, was also referred to as the owl goddess. This could be because owls fly in the night by the light of the moon and hunt, which is exactly what this Greek goddess is known for.

Show off your knowledge of ancient mythology by mixing in aspects of these stories in your bird tattoos. This will give cultured flair to your designs and make the birds stand out as regal representations of memorable folklore. Accent a tattoo of a phoenix with a blaring sun or bursts of flame, or an owl with a full moon. Customize each bird to give it that special flair and make it uniquely yours!

What Do Birds Tattoos Mean and Why Should You Choose One?

Some people get bird tattoos to celebrate life with an ornithological twist. Others may choose a bird tattoo to commemorate a loved one who passed away or to represent their love for nature and the freedom that birds symbolize. The meaning behind these tattoos is deeply personal, but what they all have in common is their beauty- no matter the reason you chose them!

Bird tattoos embody the special qualities each species of bird possesses. They can also reflect your own unique story and personality. A bird tattoo can depict any message you want it to, you just have to paint the perfect picture.

Tattoos are a part of you, which is why choosing the best one is important. You want to relay the right message and let a bit of yourself shine through in the process. Birds have distinct characteristics, and there is a bird for every type of person out there. From carefree canaries to somber ravens to regal swans, you can handpick a bird for every aspect of yourself that you want to shine through. I will go over what each bird tattoo symbolizes so you can choose the best fit for your life.

Different Types of Bird Tattoos

Cardinal Tattoos

Cardinal Tattoo meaning

Cardinals are vibrant birds. They hold many meanings (incl. biblical meanings), but the most symbolic of those are pride, boldness, passion, and the remembrance of a loved one. The bright crimson coloring of their feathers represents bold qualities that inspire dignity and individuality. The color red similarly invokes a burning passion like fire. It is also believed that cardinals represent the reincarnation of a loved one. They say that if a cardinal visits your window or appears in a dream, it means someone is visiting you from the afterlife and wishes you well. Many people get cardinal bird tattoos to remember someone who has passed.

Canary, Goldfinch, or Other Yellow Bird

Canary tatto meaning

The color yellow represents happiness and excitement. These pretty birds should bring out a spark of joy in your eye and sing a cheerful tune to brighten your day. Tattoos of canaries and goldfinches often represent a person with a passion for life and a song in their heart. They hold a very positive energy

Canaries are one of the most popular species of songbirds. Many pop-culture references include canaries, often using their cute personalities in cartoons and showcasing their love of music. Canaries are also a symbol of harmony and unexpected happiness. If you’d like a little luck and good vibes for the future, canaries will make a good luck charm as a tattoo.

Goldfinches uniquely represent dreamers. In dreams, if you see a goldfinch, it is a sign that you will meet your goals, aspirations, and hopes for the future. If you are a go-getter or a whimsical dreamer, goldfinches can represent the desires of your heart to succeed in life. Read more about the Goldfinch symbolism here.

Bluebird or Blue Jay Tattoo

Bluebird Tattoo Meaning

Blue may be known as a stereotypically sad color, but that same sentiment does not carry over to birds. On the contrary, blue-colored birds typically symbolize positive traits. Bluebirds, for example, represent spring, the beginning of new life and growth. They also are used as bird symbolism for happiness as well. Blue jays, on the other hand, mean both intelligence and whit. Both bluebird and blue jay tattoos may be the perfect addition for any people who feel a certain sort of affinity toward these qualities of their own personalities.

Sparrow Bird

Black Bird Tattoo Meaning

Throughout history, sailors have worn tattoos of sparrows and swallows to ensure safe journeys home. They bring hope that the wearer will make it through any storm because these birds are said to have a homing mechanism that will always show them the way. Sparrow and swallow tattoos are a classic bird tattoo meaning – an old-fashioned way to express your affinity to your home and wanderlust for the journeys to come.

Raven or Crow

Crow Tattoo meaning

Quoth the raven, a literary symbol and an ominous messenger of death. Ravens and crows are associated with darker emotions and death due to their black feathers and foreboding history in literature. These black birds often carry omens of death, so they will be a spooky addition to your skin as a tattoo. They are also linked to intelligence and mischief, so if those are qualities you hold, this tattoo may be right for you!

As in the famous Edgar Allen Poe stories, ravens are one of the many talking birds in literature. You may not be able to hear a raven talk to you in real life, but as in a poem of the same name, ravens have functionally spoken to characters and given them messages that drive the plot of the stories. Raven tattoos pair well with images such as ink pens, parchment, and open books to show off the literary side of your personality.

Crows specifically represent guidance and protection in certain European cultures. To shed a small ray of light on a commonly unloved bird, these cultures find hope in this blackbird. As I mentioned earlier, a Celtic goddess is famous for using a raven to fly over battlefields and blanket them with protection and good fortune. The bird tattoo meaning of a crow can showcase an unconventional picture of luck in your everyday life.

Owl Tattoos

Owl Tattoo meaning

Owls hold the candle for birds of intelligence. Many logos and novels use this bird to showcase book smarts by adding glasses to their feathery faces. If you are a lover of the written word, or simply find this animal adorable in its own nerdy way, an owl tattoo is a perfect choice. Owls are also associated with magic, as seen in popular movies about witches and wizards. The Greek goddess Hecate is known to be depicted as an owl and is associated with witchcraft.

If you want to show off a more edgy side of your personality, owls are also associated with the fierce, feminine powerhouse Arthemis. She is the Greek goddess of the moon and the hunt, and she is famously paired with an owl. To add some creative flair to your owl tattoo, you can add some feathered arrows and a bow or a full moon to give a small nod to this feral beauty. However, in some cultures, owls are also seen as birds of death

Chicken (Rooster or Hen)

Rooster tattoo meaning

When you think of a chicken, you don’t often think of a tattoo. However, roosters and hens have a rustic charm, and they are linked to a simple life and one connected to the homestead. Hens are motherly creatures with a love for their young, and roosters are brave go-getters who protect their brood. Roosters also embody the virility of men, passion, protective, and full of energy. They hold their heads high, puff out their chests and defend their homestead. They crow at the sun and tell the world who’s boss! Chickens are also associated with southern charm and values, reminding people that home is where the heart is. The symbolism behind this kind of bird tattoo may appeal to you if you enjoy quiet farm life, family, and standing up for your loved ones (read more about the chicken symbolism).

Bird Tattoo in a Time Lapse


Eagle Tattoo meaning

Eagles are the most patriotic bird on this list. They are a true symbol of power, freedom, loyalty, and strength. If you love your country, stand up for your beliefs, and stand for the flag, this is the perfect tattoo for you. An eagle tattoo will give you the courage to stand up for what you believe in. It will show the world that you are a strong supporter of your country, a loyal friend, and a brave soul.

Peacock Tattoo Symbolism

Peacock tattoo meaning

Peacocks are incredible, flamboyant, proud animals. They flaunt their beauty without care, and they hold their heads high. These spectacular creatures deserve all the love, and they are a gorgeous addition to your tattoo collection and a great bird tattoo meaning. What is more symbolic of beauty and grace? The peacock will add a splash of color and reflect artistry on your skin. Also, peacock feathers tattoos are popular and their meanings can be found here.

Phoenix Bird Symbol

Phoenix Bird tattoo meaning

The phoenix is an emblem of rebirth and growth. Phoenixes show us that you can overcome anything and come out glowing bright like the sun! You can grow and reach your greatest dreams on the wings of this magnificent creature. The fire in a phoenix’s eyes will reflect the passion in your own, and you can keep the embers burning for years to come. The phoenix tattoo meaning is a permanent sign that nothing can keep you down.

Quite cool: Flying Phoenix Tattoo


Swallow bird Tattoo Meaning

Throughout history, sailors have worn tattoos of sparrows and swallows to ensure safe journeys home. They bring hope that the wearer will make it through any storm because these birds are said to have a homing mechanism that will always show them the way. Sparrow and swallow meanings regarding tattoos are a classic, old-fashioned way to express your affinity to your home and wanderlust for the journeys to come.


Parrot bird Tattoos meaning

Parrots are playful birds with a rainbow of colors in their feathers. They are associated with pirates faring the seven sees. They also remind people of a tropical paradise getaway. These vibrant birds represent communication, bravery, tongue-in-cheek humor, and fun. If you love to bask in the sun and spread your wings, a parrot tattoo will look great paired with your favorite swimsuit! Find out about the parrot symbolism here.

Swan Tattoos

Swan Tattoos symbolism

The swan meaning is a regal symbol of loyalty, beauty, and strength. They embody poise, grace, and devotion. Their clean white color attributes them to the purest aspects of life. White swans help people let go of negative feelings and revel in the finer things. Ballerinas are associated with swans, dancing with the grace and calmness of the beautiful birds. There are also rare black swans that are associated with deep romance and mystery. Both colored swans make stunning tattoos, and they will stand out as your own personal symbols of elegance.

Dove (or White Bird)

Dove Tattoo

Doves are a universally accepted symbol of love and peace. Doves are used in the Bible to represent the calm after a raging storm. During the great flood with Noah and the Ark in the Bible, a white dove returned to the ship after forty days with an olive branch in its beak to mark the end of the rain. In nature, they represent adoration and feelings of fidelity. Doves are monogamous, meaning they mate once for life, so having a dove tattoo can showcase the affection you have for a significant other. In the turmoil of life, a dove tattoo can also help you find peace in roiling chaos. Doves are also birds that symbolize love.


Hummingbird tattoo symbolism

Hummingbirds are tiny and adorable, but also quite colorful and energetic. Hummingbirds mean quick whit, agility, energy, and life. The speed of their wings causes their wings to produce a humming sound, giving them their name. Hummingbirds show us that even small things can be powerful, nimble, and full of life. Their colors shine like gemstones. Their iridescent feathers showcase emerald green, fiery orange, sunny yellow, and deep purple colors. They are the perfect tattoo to give your skin a vibrant pop of color and life in a small package.

Feather with Birds Tattoo Meaning

Feather with Birds tattoo symbol

This amazingly beautiful tattoo design is very sought-after, especially amongst those that appreciate not only body art but also Native American traditions and heritage. The feather tattoo designs represent deep symbolic meanings.

If you’re also looking to understand more a few feather inspired tattoo design, then read this

Feathers depict different meanings in several cultures

Feathers do have a spiritual meaning and therefore are chosen for tattoos. Here is what it represents in Celtic, Christianity, and other religions and cultures:

The feather in ancient Christianity symbolizes virtue, and therefore the same is mentioned repeatedly within the Bible. as an example, verse four of Psalm 91, says: “He shall cover you together with his feathers, and under His wings, you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” Three of them are often seen curved into a seal ring and every one represents something, namely hope, faith, and charity.

In Celtic also feathers are considered important as their druids wore feathered robes in ceremonial events. Whereas, consistent with the Egyptian culture feathers are related to the sky gods. Like these different cultures and religions attribute different spiritual and symbolic aiming to the feathers.

Birds and feathers have always been a crucial symbol of several Native Americans. More often than not, Native Americans include feathers as a design in their clothing, headdresses, jewelry, Ojibwe dream catchers, tools, and even weapons.

Often Native Americans considered the gifts falling from the sky. When a feather falls to earth, Native Americans believe that it carries with it all of the energy of its former attachment to the bird, wind, and sky and it represents the facility of the thunder gods, air, and wind. Also, Native American chiefs wont to wear many feathers during ceremonial occasions to represent their strong connection to the spiritual realms. Also, warriors were appreciated for their exceptionally courageous and honorable performance on the battlefield, by giving a feather as a special gift.

In some cultures and religions, feathers also are related to the people that have left the planet or gave up the ghost. Some cultures believe that if a feather falls on your path, it’s a symbol that an individual who has given up the ghost or died is trying to speak with you.

Dead Birds

Dead Birds Tattoo Meaning

There are many birds that symbolize death. The most common throughout history have been ravens, crows, phoenixes, and cardinals. Ravens and crows are viewed as omens of death in many literary texts. Phoenixes represent rebirth after death, climbing from the ashes to overcome their downfalls. Cardinals represent death by reminding us of those who have died and come back to watch over us. Each bird has a unique representation of death in all of its forms, from good to nostalgic.

However, and similar to the death tarot card, a dead bird is a symbol or an omen of a fresh start from an end and not simply an end. OVERALL AND PARADOXICALLY, A DEAD BIRD SYMBOLIZES A NEW BEGINNING.

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So no need to worry, this is an opportunity to reflect on the changes that are happening around you and inside yourself. So, acknowledge your emotions and prepare to release the old skin, it might even only be painful if you choose to resist. It’s excess baggage for the next part of your journey.

Bird Cage Tattoo

Bird Cage Tattoo Meaning

Across many cultures over time, the birdcage has been used as a metaphor and symbol. Going back to the hunter-gatherer times to instances like today, the birdcage is a pervasive image that can be utilized in explaining many special cultural symbolisms.

Many human beings use the birdcage as an analogy to say that we’re all caged up in our lives. From speaking with one guy with a birdcage tattoo, he thought we were all of the birds and society is the cage. We experience we must do matters because “they” tell us to and this is the cage we’re all certain by. Whether we live in an immaculate home or in an apartment, we all deal with the normal struggles of this life and we’re continually seeking to evolve or come out of our cage.

Birds are capable of flight and this image is often checked out as a sign of freedom. Birds are also linked to traits like creativity and thought as they waft with the wind. When birds are captured and caged, the obvious that means of this picture is a loss of freedom.

On the other hand, cages are more complex than that. We generally tend to have an unclear relationship with the cage. As much because the cage can be symbolic of preserving us from being free, it additionally protects us from things or people that we don’t want to encounter. Being in a cage isn’t always a bad component and lots of it relies upon if the trade-off is worth it to us. If we are locked within the residence all through the birth of a brand new child, we’re in a vulnerable nation and want the protection of the cage and that is why it is essential to understand the context of the tattoo.

Flying Birds

Flying Birds Tattoo Meaning

Birds of a feather flock together. A tattoo of a flock of birds reflects unity, family, and friendship. It can also subtly tell the story of a united dream or the first trip you and your friends took together. It also shows us the beauty of purpose, of a collective drive to achieve one’s aspirations, and of companionship.

A tattoo of a flying bird symbolizes the liberation of one’s past. It represents an independent soul flying from the nest to pursue their dreams. Leaping from one stage of life to another is a common theme in peoples’ lives, and this creative spin on a classic bird tattoo can illustrate that sentiment. Flying birds are often drawn escaping from a cage, which depicts fleeing from an oppressive period of your life. Grab hold of the wind under your wings and kickstart a new stage in your life with a flying bird tattoo.

[Video] Explanation of a Tattoo of Flying Birds Meaning

Bird Tattoo Placement Options

Of all the common tattoo elements and pictures, birds are one among the foremost scalable – you’ll have a bird tattoo any size, from a couple of millimeters across to cover your entire back. Popular placements include:

Outer CollarboneThis area tends “to be least exposed to the sun since it’s easily covered up by shirts and scarves. Unlike the middle part of your chest, it’s not as likely to bake in direct sunlight and fade as a result.
Backthe rear is that the obvious choice for the most important and most complex designs, like a bold phoenix tattoo or a picture with several birds on the wing, for instance. Of course, you don’t need to use the entire area – a smaller tattoo on the upper or lower back also can look awesome. Unlike the abdomen, for example, which can stretch as your weight fluctuates, or if you’re pregnant, the back is relatively stable, especially around the shoulder blades. If you’re worried about a tattoo warping over time, ask your tattoo artist if they think this would be a good spot.
CalvesCalves are perfect for vertically elongated designs, such as one large bird during a perching position or several birds on the wing. Relatively easy to hide up with clothing when necessary.
ChestBird tattoos on the chest also are highly popular, and this area can work perfectly for both small and enormous tattoos. Consider a little design below your collarbone or a bigger one on your lower chest area.
Upper Ribcageif you get pregnant, this is one spot on the abdomen that isn’t as likely to stretch. Of course, if that does happen, it’s not a big deal. But if it’s something you’re concerned about, talk with your tattoo artist to figure out a way to avoid areas that may stretch or fade over time.
Inner Armthe upper inner arm is also a great spot and has the added benefit of being easily covered and protected by shirt sleeves, so you can keep it even safer.
WristTiny, all-black bird-themed tattoos on the wrist are the peak of fashion lately and you’ll see many samples of this sort of design. Subtle and stylish, they’re also the right choice for your first tattoo.
Upper ThighsOf course, that doesn’t mean you have to hide your tats under clothes all the time or worry 24/7 about how they might look in twenty years. All you need to do when you do decide to show them off is apply a liberal amount of sunscreen to keep your skin safe — and you’ll be good to go.

Final words: all Bird Tattoo Meaning Pictures in a Video

In Conclusion: Bird Tattoo Meanings

Birds can have as many personality types as a human, so this guide can help you find the best fit for you. Birds can also symbolize a transition in your life, such as leaving the nest for the first time. If you’ve gone through a big change this year, or have something you’d like to remember from the past, a bird tattoo can be a great way to memorialize that moment. I hope my explanation of bird tattoos has helped you decide what feathery friend to add to your collection!

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Author: Rachel Meyer
Meet Rachel, a veterinarian in Pasadena, California, and a valued contributor to our blog. Rachel brings a wealth of expertise to the table, with a particular focus on the intersection of symbolism, nature, and spirituality. She shares her knowledge and insights on our blog on regular basis.

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