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Bird Tattoo Meaning and Significance

Birds are one of the most common types of tattoo designs favored by first-timers and even veteran inkers. Why? Well, birds are beautiful, colorful, and wonderful creatures of nature that can have various meanings depending on their kind, color, and even number. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most popular bird tattoo designs and what they could mean for you.

Popular Symbolism of Bird Tattoos

Symbolism of bird tattoos

Before diving deep into what specific species of birds represent when you get them as tattoos, let’s take a look at what bird tattoos generally stand for:

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  • Freedom: The most important thing represented by birds is freedom. Because of their ability to fly, birds are free to go wherever their wings can take them. As a symbol, birds represent not just physical autonomy, but also freedom of thought, direction, and choice.
  • Peace: Birds can reach heights that are free from the noise, trouble, and complexities of the world as we know it. Therefore, bird tattoos evoke feelings of peace and detachment from worldly troubles.
  • Connection: Because birds can soar to the sky from the ground in an instant, symbolizing the way people can connect to beings not just of the earth, but the entire realm of all creations.
  • Perspective: Having a bird’s eye view on things gives us new perspective in life and allows us to see the bigger picture as we get to see things in a way no one else can. Taken this way, bird tattoos also represent a new way of looking at things and thinking outside the box.
  • Independence: Birds, so long as they are uncaged, follow their own sense of direction wherever they go. So, a bird tattoo is believed to represent a person’s independence in going wherever he pleases and doing whatever his heart wants.
  • Courage: Birds are daring creatures that do not fear easily, since they are capable of rising above adversity. People with bird tattoos may value this trait and may wish to inspire themselves to have the courage to venture into the unknown, knowing they can always pull themselves out of tight spots.

Types of Bird Tattoos and Their Specific Meanings

Girl with Robin bird tattoo

While birds have general connotations attached to them, each species also has its own symbolic meanings and importance in culture and art. Let’s take a look at the specific species of birds and what they stand for. 

1- Robin

Robins are small, cute birds known for their friendliness, singing and beautiful colors. There’s a saying that robins appear when a loved one is near, making them a symbol of happiness and anticipation. Robins also symbolize harmony, optimism and hope.

2- Cardinals

Cardinal tattoos are popular, especially in Germany, and it represents passion, love, and zest for life. This is attributed to the bright red feathers of cardinals. If you want a tattoo that celebrates how you love fully and live everyday with enough passion to fuel a lifetime of adventure and happiness, a cardinal bird tattoo should be perfect for you. 

3- Crow or Any Black Bird

Ravens, blackbirds, vultures, and crows, like any other black bird, are usually attached to negative connotations, such as death and darkness. However, a lot of people find beauty in the mystique and magic of the spirit world. For them, getting a tattoo of a black bird represents higher and deeper levels of intellect and communion with the spirit world.

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4- Crane

In East Asia, it’s very common to see cloth and paper folded into crane origami. This is because cranes are symbolic of luck and good fortune in Japan and China. In these culures, people believe that if you are able to make 1,000 origami cranes, your wish will come true. Getting one for a tattoo thus invokes hope for good luck and achieving whatever one’s desires may be.

5- Sparrows 

Sparrows and swallows are popular tattoo ideas for sailors. Since these birds can reach farther out into the sea than most other birds, they are usually the first signal that reach voyagers when they are about to reach land after a long journey on the cold sea. Sparrows and swallows are therefore nice tattoo ideas to evoke feelings of hope and certainty. However, these birds are also famous among prison gangs, since they are said to represent rebellion against an unjust society.

6- Chicken (Rooster or Hen)

Even though chickens technically can’t fly as high as the other birds on this list, they are one of the bravest, fiercest, and most territorial little creatures, who will not hesitate to attack when their coop or young are compromised. Getting a tattoo of a rooster or a hen symbolizes filial loyalty and bravery.

7- Dove or Any White Bird

Doves are powerful symbols of peace, love, and hope, because of their significance in the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark. It’s also used to depict the otherwise invisible Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit whenever it’s incorporated in religious art. Therefore, dove tattoos are popular among those who are in touch with their spiritual side.

8- Blue Bird

Blue birds have been used to depict happiness in the artwork produced in many different cultures. For instance, an old Cole Porter song has the line: Be like the bluebird who never is blue, for he knows from his upbringing what singing can do. The Wizard of Oz also speaks of a happy little bluebird who can apparently fly over the rainbow. So, if you want to express happiness and a worry-free life, get a tattoo of a blue bird.

9- Eagle

For Native Americans, and several other cultures, eagles are revered as sacred animals that represent strength, vision, courage, and intelligence. Having an eagle-eye means the ability to see beyond what others normally contemplate, so getting this powerful bird as a tattoo is quite symbolic of majestic strength and having good vision about one’s life.

10- Owl

In every story, when an owl shows up, you just know it is about to drop some wisdom, truth, and knowledge that the main character can use to slay villains or to succeed in their adventurous quests. The bird’s huge eyes and impressive night vision is believed to provide extraordinary ability to think deeply and see things in a way that others can’t. Owls are also faithful friends for magical people, hence the bird is associated with the occult and power drawn from the spirit world.

11- Phoenix

This mythical bird is known for bursting into flames every 500 years, only to be reborn from the ashes. Getting a phoenix tattoo is thus descriptive of our ability to survive, evolve, and be reborn after death. It’s popular among people who value persistence, tenacity, and bravery.

12- Raven

Just like owls, ravens are said to possess magical qualities, making them a perfect pet for witches and other mythical beings. Ravens are often seen as a symbol of Death itself. The bird is thus often used as an omen for death and being one with our dearly departed. It is common to see people getting a raven tattoo after losing someone close to them. Otherwise, this bird is also used to depict intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge that only comes with being one with the other world.

13- Peacock

This beautiful bird is sometimes reduced to being vain or overly proud, but one must recognize that peacocks do have something to be cocky about. Its majestic fan of feathers is eye-catching and endlessly impressive, so those who are captivated by spectacle and drama would be on the right track in getting a peacock tattoo.

14- Hawk or Falcon

These two predatory birds are remembered for their wonderful hunting skills, brought about by their ability to stay focused on a prey and disguise themselves in cunning ways until they are within striking distance. One swoop from a terrific height allows these beasts to capture their prey, so those who want to pay tribute to their tenacity, focus, and never-say-die attitude can very well get a tattoo of a hawk or a falcon.

15- Parrot

Aside from being loyal, joyful pets, parrots are always found perched on the shoulders of pirates. This is because this bird is thought to be as clever, playful, and wise as any good pirate. Getting a tattoo of this bird thus represents filial ties, companionship, and cleverness. After all, how many other birds can perfectly mimic the way humans talk, while also being able to copy other sounds from nature and even musical instruments?

16- Canary or Any Yellow Bird

Yellow birds are often associated with abundance and joy. They are, in fact, terrific pets because they can bring sunshine to any room. So, if you get a yellow bird tattoo, you are invoking happiness and joy wherever you go, bringing with you a symbol of cheer and hope that things will inevitably turn out okay.

Birds of a Feather: How the Number of Birds Affects the Meaning of Your Tattoo

The color and kind of bird used for tattoos can already have numerous representations to its bearer. So, it’s not really that surprising to find that the number of birds tattooed on your body can also have different interpretations.

Although it still really depends on the person, a solitary bird can mean independence and focus. Two birds may represent love, a partnership, or joy. Three and nine are regarded as magic numbers and can be used as a talisman for the bearer, while 7 is a lucky number that can bring good fortune.

Wrapping Up

In terms of tattooing, there is just one thing that you need to keep in mind. Inking your body is still a permanent thing. While several procedures are now available to remove, erase, or draw on top of your tattoos, you yourself will know that it is there, regardless of what others see. Hence, tattooing is a big life decision that you should deeply think about before doing. Fortunately, bird tattoo designs can give you a wide selection of choices to find out which bird speaks to you and can represent a part of your life that you want forever etched on your skin.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.