Regardless of how miserable you feel, nothing pulls you out of a foul mood faster than the pleasant chirps of a bird.
It is a universal fact that a bird's song heralds the bounty of new opportunities and possibilities that the coming day brings. On some subconscious level, we look forward to hearing the first whistles and clicks because they energize us, even if only to a small extent.
Throughout history, humanity has been obsessed with birds. They represent a variety of traits that we, humans, aspire to achieve and incorporate into our daily lives. Although the characteristics embodied by each species of avian is vastly different, all birds speak to the most coveted trait - the desire to be free.
Humanity's earliest inventors were inspired to take flight simply because they were envious of the birds' ability to move uninhibited across the sky. Abbas Ibn Firnas
, the first human to attempt flight, adorned himself with a contraption made of feathers and other accoutrements and jumped from the top of the tallest building in his home town. Abbas was somewhat successful, managing to glide for a short distance before crashing to the ground. He survived his fall, but in the process of chasing his dream, Abbas is said to have injured his back. Thanks to Abbas and others like him, who were inspired by the sight of birds soaring high in the sky, modern humans can now jet across the oceans in a matter of hours.
It will be interesting to see what other inventions birds will inspire in the coming centuries.
The Meaning of Bird Tattoos
Every Bird Tattoo carries with it a different meaning. Even birds that are closely related in Nature, can, in a spiritual and philosophical context, be as different as night and day. Some of the more popular traits associated with birds include:
- Freedom and a sense of being uninhibited
- Spiritual Guidance and Protection
- Motherhood and Family
- Beauty and Elegance
- Love and Peace
- Knowledge and a keen intellect
Bird Tattoo Variations
Bird Tattoos come in any variety of colors and the number of elements that you may choose to add to your design is limited only be the depth of your imagination. Some birds have special meaning, others make for a vibrant tattoo design, and still there are those images that add the "Wow! factor" to any piece. In most designs, Bird Tattoos feature natural elements like flowers to add a sense of femininity and beauty to the piece. Designs that make reference to a cage or any other type of confinement are usually done to express your desire to be rid of the troubles that plague you.
Bird of Paradise Tattoos
is an avian known for its sense of style. It is a diva, out-styling and outdoing even the haughty peacock
. But these flashy fliers are also religious icons; to the natives of Papua, New Guinea, birds-of-paradise are gifts from God and their feathers are incorporated into many sacred rites and rituals out of reverence and respect for the animal. Despite their flashy appearance, the reputation of these little animals has not been tarnished with arrogance and egotism like the Peacock's image has been. Bird-of-Paradise Tattoosk
represent Beauty, Elegance, and Grace, and show the world that appearances alone do not give a true picture of who you really are.
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Cardinals are fiery and passionate little birds. Despite the drabness of winter, they have the ability to bring light and life to a cold atmosphere. With its lively songs and spirited movements, Cardinals are the life of the party - so to speak - as such, they are emblems of Energy, Vitality
, Passion, and Youth. In Germany
, they are synonymous with Christmas, adding to their image as emblems of Happiness and Joy. But they are also fiercely territorial
and are seen by many as totems of Loyalty, duty, and a sense of Family.
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Roosters are the Kings of the Barnyard. Their deafening crow, flashy plumage, and fierce fighting skills make them indelible characters throughout human history and delectable treats on our dinner plates. Chickens and Roosters are known for their extremely territorial nature, which seems to kick into high gear whenever little chicks are around. As such, they are symbols of Family and Protection; a rooster will fight to the death to protect his turf. Roosters also represent new opportunity, thanks to its link with the coming dawn, and as virile studs, their body parts are often used in many ancient love potions. Rooster and Chicken Tattoos symbolise Protection, Renewal, Prosperity, Guidance, Bravery, Honesty, and Virility.
Cranes are totems of Peace, Prosperity, Hope, and Purity. They are Birds of Happiness, emblems of Love, and religious icons in many cultures across the globe. In Japan, it is believed that cranes bring good fortune and a blessed marriage, as such, crane references hidden between the folds of wedding kimonos and other decorations. Cranes also symbolize new opportunity. The ancient legend of the thousand cranes gained modern popularity in Japan after Sadako Sasaki
, a survivor of Hiroshima, attempted to fold a thousand origami cranes in a symbolic bid for peace and her recovery from leukaemia.
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Doves are emissaries of Peace and Love
; the quintessential reminder of God's promise to his disciples. Throughout much of the Bible, the Dove
is woven into a number of significant stories and is often associated with key persons like John the Baptist
. In the Mediterranean and parts of the Near East, doves were totems of the Canaanite mother goddess, Asherah
, and were even emblems associated with the Roman goddess of Love and Beauty, Venus
. In today's context, Dove Tattoos represent your spiritual nature and your devotion to the Christian faith, but that is not to say that these designs can only be exclusively worn by Christians. Dove Tattoos also represent Femininity, Purity, Beauty, and Grace, and are the markings of a gentle soul.
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This majestic bird has long been a symbol of Spirituality, Wisdom, and Power, and has been a cultural icon for millions of people since the dawn of human civilization. The Eagle is the embodiment of masculine Strength and Virility
. The Greek god, Zeus - known for being quite randy - is often associated with the Eagle and it is no coincidence that the Eagle is sometimes shown with the quintessential symbol of Zeus - the lightning bolt. For Native Americans, these noble birds are revered symbols of spiritual power
, the great messenger of the gods, and the earthly incarnation of the mighty Thunderbird spirit
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Like its cousins, the Eagle
and the Hawk
, the Falcon
is revered as a noble creature. It is a formidable hunter and as an emblem of the rising sun; it is also seen as the harbinger of Hope and new opportunity. Falcons are renowned for their intellect and their ability to remain focused on a particular task (usually prey) for an extended period of time. Falcon Tattoos
embody fierce fighting instincts and the ability to remain committed to the task at hand, regardless of the obstacles thrown your way.
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A bird's feathers represents more than just gaudy plumage. In many cultures across the globe, feathers are believed hold spiritual power
, as such, they are integral parts of many tribal rituals. Feathers in particular are used by tribal shamans to apply medicinal potions and signify status and authority. The most eye catching and vibrant plumage is usually reserved for revered members of the tribe, in the belief that these delicate tokens are gifts from the gods themselves and only those deemed worthy by the gods are allowed to wear them. Each type of Feather Tattoo
holds special meaning. Ostrich and Peacock feathers
usually represent Beauty and Grace, whereas Eagle feathers
represent Healing and Medicine.
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It is hard to ignore the bright pink hue and famous outline of the Flamingo
. Their outline is considered to be a sign of intrinsic beauty and graceful elegance. Their pink color is due largely to their diet rich in beta-Carotene
(the same stuff in carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes) and is a sign of health. The brighter the flamingo's hue, the more likely he is to attract mates. No-one really knows why they stand on one leg, but the silhouette created has become the inspiration for the extremely popular lawn ornaments that decorate homes across some parts of North America. Flamingos were once revered as representatives of the Egyptian sun god, Ra
; as such, they are symbols of Vitality, Energy, and Beauty.
There is no better security system than a gaggle of geese
; they forewarn of danger long before anyone around even senses a threat. This may be just a nervous trait that the animals have developed over time as protection from predators or it may be due to the fact that geese are extremely territorial
. Geese are also renowned for being doting parents and are totems of Loyalty and Family. It is said that whenever a member of the flock is injured, two or more of his companions will stay behind to protect it. Goose Tattoos
represent Loyalty, Family, and are symbolic of your close kinship to your loved ones.
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Like the Eagle
, the Hawk is a bird of Valor and Honor. It is an expert hunter and with its keen senses (especially its sense of sight) it can zoom in and swoop down on prey from dizzying heights. The Hawk's senses make it a totem of Intuition, Intelligence, and Foresight, and its ability to soar high in the sky inevitably linked it with sun deities like Apollo. According to some schools of thought, the Hawk is associated with guiding the souls of the dead
to the afterlife, as such, it is also a symbol of Spirituality and the Divine. Hawks are doting protectors despite their reputation as fierce predators. Hawk Tattoos
symbolize Protection, Bravery, Cunning, and a deep sense of spirituality.
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In the Caribbean, the Hummingbird is a symbol of Beauty and Grace
. It is the national bird of Jamaica and is featured on almost all of the island's official documents and monetary notes. The Lovebird
(as it is known as in the Caribbean) is symbol of Energy, Passion, and Vitality. With an average wing speed of eighty beats per second, it is easy to see why the Aztecs believed talismans made in honor of these creatures would bestow the wearer with energy and strength. In essence, the Aztec talisman was the pre-Columbian version of Popeye's can of spinach
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New Zealanders are proud of their Kiwis
; so much so that it is considered an honor call a New Zealander a "Kiwi". The Kiwi is a bird with deep spiritual roots; the Maori people
believe that it is a sacred animal under the protection of the forest god, Tane
, as such, it should be revered and protected at all costs. This reverence for the bird was impressed upon European settlers and by the 1880s, the first images of the animal was incorporated into the uniforms of the country's military. The popularity of the image spread like wildfire and today, it is hard to think of New Zealand without thinking about this little fellow. Kiwi Tattoos
pay homage to the Māori people and show reverence for the spiritual world. Most importantly, a Kiwi Tattoo is an emblem of a proud Kiwi heritage.
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What they lack in size, they make up for it in beauty and spiritual impact. Throughout the landscape of Western Europe (in particularly England), Larks
have inspired the hands and minds of the world's most talented poets and painters. These birds are symbolic of the coming dawn, the rise in opportunity, and good fortune, as such, writers like Chaucer
often used their image to symbolize a change of the mood or new beginnings in their literary pieces. Larks are also prized pets and delectable dishes in some parts of the world. Lark Tattoos
symbolize Fortune and Renewal; they represent the imminent arrival of something wonderful.
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are renowned for being the largest bird on the planet, but did you know that they are also known as one of the sexiest? It's true! Ostrich feathers have long been one of the most sought after accessories for risque burlesque dancers, as such, the sight of an Ostrich feather conjures up naughty images in most people's minds. But aside from this reputation, Ostriches and Emus are invaluable sources of nutrition and transportation, making them revered creatures in the some of the world's most arid places. Ostrich Tattoos
express your keen survival instincts and your position as a provider and protector. If you happen to be a woman flaunting her ostrich feathers, you have an air of erotic mystery. Not a bad reputation for a bird from the desert.
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The Owl is a bird with multiple personalities. It is revered for being an insightful creature, a purveyor of knowledge, and well of Wisdom and Truth, but it is also feared harbinger of Misfortune and Death. Additionally, across numerous cultures, the Owl is seen as a spiritual guide and an ambassador of the otherworldly realm. Owl Tattoos
represent a deep understanding of mysteries of Life and your unquenchable thirst for knowledge and truth.
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When it comes to being one of humanity's most beloved birds, no other species comes close to parrots (well, except dogs and cats). They are the most popular birds to keep as pets, mainly because we are fascinated by their keen intellect and their ability to flawlessly imitate us. Parrots
represent Communication, Companionship, Intelligence, and -to an extent - Family. They are highly social animals who are renowned for their undying devotion to their owners. Parrot Tattoos
show that you are outgoing and friendly, with whip-sharp smarts and an unwavering love for those you value. The animal is also a way to acknowledge your rebellious nature; pirates and parrots go hand in hand and, let's face it, pirates were not known for being the most law abiding citizens in history.
Peacocks bring a sense of flair and drama to everything. It is not surprising that humans have been fascinated by these birds with big feathers and an enormous ego. But the Peacock
is more than just a narcissist's icon; it is a champion of Piety, Christianity, Kindness, Compassion, and Knowledge.
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Born of fire and molded by destruction in order to become one of the most beautiful birds in the universe, the Phoenix is an emblem for survival
. It is symbolic of the cycle of Life and Death - through Life something inevitably dies and from destruction, beauty is reborn. Many world religions hold this magnificent creature in high regard. The Phoenix was an icon of early Christians; its longevity and the ability to renew itself became symbolic of the fledging Church's might and sent a clear message - no matter how many times Christians would be persecuted and destroyed, they would still rise up from the ashes to become even more beautiful than before.
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Ravens or Crows are a strange mix of contradictions - a noble creature and an evil doer in the same breath. According to the Native American tradition, the Raven is fiercely protective of the world that it helped to create. It spends its days doing one thing: manipulating everyone around it in order to bring light and wisdom to the world. No-one is safe from the Raven's unscrupulous acts, and yet, everyone is protected by the bird's loving nature. Raven Tattoos
represent a contradictory nature, Creation, Renewal, Transformation, Protection, and of course, astounding intellect.
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The Sankofa is a traditional African concept with universal appeal. It is a favorite design for jewelry makers, fashion designers, cloth weavers, and tattoo artists because of its uniqueness, and yet, it is deeply spiritual and full of meaning. The Sankofa
calls on us to look and learn from our past in order to make a strong foundation for a brighter future. The ability to learn from the past, from the ancestors, from our mistakes and our accomplishments, is a universally human trait that resonates with everyone, regardless of his or her origins.
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Swallows and Sparrows have a shared reputation as birds of Beauty, Peace, Protection, and Motherhood. These birds
are renowned guardians and protectors in numerous traditions. For sailors, a swallow was a sign of a safe journey and, for the ancient Egyptians, they protected the souls of the dead. In Christianity, swallows and sparrows represent God's love and His promise to keep a caring and watchful eye on his followers. On the other hand, Swallow and Sparrow Tattoos are emblems of rebellion
. Jailbirds (prisoners) and Rockabillies
love Swallow Tattoos because the designs show that they are fighting against the status quo of an unjust society.
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Swans are majestic birds
of Beauty, Elegance, and Grace. They have been elevated to the lofty status of being ethereal creatures worthy of deep respect and reverence, as such, they are icons in many of world religions. From the Hindus to the Christians, the image of a white swan
embodies Purity, Chastity, Loyalty, Femininity, and Innocence.
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The Thunderbird may be a mythical creature, but it is inspired by a noble, living legend - the Eagle
. Whenever one speaks of these two, it is not uncommon for traits to be used interchangeably. Both are central figures in the Native American culture, both are noble and fierce warriors, spiritual guides, divine creators, and nurturing providers. Thunderbird Tattoos
represent Honor, Valor, Nobility, Power, Strength, Dominance, and salute your fighting spirit.
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If you are one of the few people willing to look pass the stereotype and sport a tattoo of a vulture, then we salute you. The social stigma attached to the bird
is deeply entrenched and unjustified, and sadly clouds the nobility and beauty of a great animal. Vultures
represent many things, including Death, Renewal, Patience, Cleanliness, Protection, and Intelligence, but most importantly, they are survivors that can make the best out of the worst that life has to offer. It may surprise you to know that Buzzards were revered symbols of Motherhood and Family in ancient Egypt, but it is doubtful that Hallmark will be printing any vultures on its Mother's Day cards anytime soon.
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Bird designs offer diversity, complexity, and, of course, intricate beauty.
You can add any number of elements and be as colorful and as creative as your imagination allows. The only thing to consider is what your design means and where its position will be on your body. In the tattoo world, placement is just as important as purpose, so spend the time to choose wisely. If you need design inspiration, then our team of artists can help. Take advantage of our Custom Design Service
and we will design a piece for you that is truly a masterpiece.