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Prettiest Bird Tattoos for Girls

Updated on August 31, 2017

Bird tattoo meanings and ideas for ladies

Why the popularity of bird tattoos? Aside from their obvious beauty and often bright, bold colors; birds represent freedom above everything else! What ink lover can resist a symbol of carefree independence, especially with so many gorgeous birds to choose from, many with their own hidden meanings.

Birds have been a long-standing part of tattoo history, and while there are more interpretations and styles of art now than ever, one thing remains clear; the classic bird tattoo shows no signs of fading into obscurity anytime soon.

From traditional swallows and bluebirds to less common feathered beauties like nightingales and parrots; birds are more than just pretty to look at---they give us a sense of flying free above our worries, soaring along in perfect harmony with nature.

They can be dark and macabre or delicate and whimsical, depending on the style, colors and expression. I hope to give you a better idea of what birds you'll see in tattoos, and what they represent.

Photo: koraykaragozler on DeviantArt

What kind of bird?

Not all birds are created equal---at least not for the purposes of tattooing. There is very different symbolism behind a traditional swallow and a phoenix cloaked in fire! For the most part, birds represent freedom, the ability to pick up and move on in life---or rather, the ability to fly away from one's troubles.

But beyond this, different species of birds have come to hold different meanings in the tattoo world; the phoenix is considered a symbol of change and rebirth, doves are symbolic of love and peace. If you'd rather a more general symbol of freedom, a simple silhouette of a bird or perhaps a bird flying from an open cage would be more fitting.


make it unique to YOU!

Photos: (left to right) Genuardis , Slodive ,

The coolest thing about art is the endless opportunity for interpretation---I'm sure we've all seen the birds-flying-away-from-feather tattoos by now...if you're thinking about having one of these more popular tattoos inked on you, artist interpretation is a wonderful thing! Having a bit of your personality shine through will turn commonplace design into something unique and meaningful to you.

Each of the three designs (above) are a variation on the trendy bird/feather design, but have something different about them. Whether you're drawing your own tattoo art or having it done for you, make an effort to be original! Enhance it with a splash of your favourite color, use a more graphic or realistic style if that speaks to you, or a special quote. Adding something meaningful to you will make your tattoo a variation on a new classic and not just a copy.

Looking for the perfect tattoo design? Create My Tattoo is an amazing site that lets you create a contest and have talented artists battle to create your dream tattoo!

It starts at only $20, and they have a money back guarantee, so you're sure to get what you want. You can upload images of your body, tattoos you like---whatever will help artists get your vision. I'm an artist on the site and it's a lot of fun coming up with designs for people!

Clean silhouettes

Photos: 1,3,4 2 by Cliff at Arsenal Tattoo

Sparrow or swallow

what's the difference anyway?

Sparrow tattoo photo: CreativeFan

Most of the photos you see on the internet tagged as sparrow tattoos are in fact swallows---sparrows are small brown/taupe colored birds with fairly unremarkable coloring, but they do bear some lovely patterns in their feathers. They have quite a different meaning as a tattoo than a swallow, and with good reason.

Sparrows are small, hardy little birds and would rarely be seen out at sea like swallows. They represent determination, overcoming adversity and resiliance---sparrows thrive in rural and urban areas, making the most of whatever they can . They group naturally with others and are symbolic of community and friendliness.

A sparrow is a wonderful design for someone who has overcome difficulty with the help of optimism and community support!

classic style

Photo: RattaTattoo

Traditional Sailor Jerry style tattoo of swallows and banner. Done in traditional colors, never goes out of style!

Alot to swallow...

Photo: National Geographic Animals

The brightly colored birds with rather pointy tailfeathers we're so used to in traditional nautical tattoos are not sparrows at all, but swallows. There are many tales and meanings associated with sailors and swallows, the most famous that swallows could carry the soul of a drowning seamen home (or in some versions to heaven), so many sailors had them tattooed on their chests with a ribbon or banner to help the birds lift them from the water.

traditional swallows

Photos: 1 Check Out My Ink, done by Frank at Starborn Tattoo Las Vegas, 2 TattooJoy

These are the kind of swallows long associated with sailors, typically based on barn swallows and black or blue in coloring with other bright contrasting bits, or sometimes black & grey. Often accompanied by nautical stars, traditional roses or daggers---a blade run through a swallow was a commom memorial tattoo for a sailor lost at sea.

Swallows were a symbol oif hope for sea-weary sailors---if the brightly colored birds were in sight, land couldn't be far off! Traditionally, after 5000 nautical miles at sea a sailor had earned his swallow tattoo, and two or more were not uncommon among seasoned navy men.

In some places, primarily the working class neighborhoods in the UK, a swallow tattooed on the hand comes with another meaning: the fist flies! A lad with one of these has probably seen his share of bar brawls---or wants to look the part...

stylized swallows

Photos: 1 MordsithCara on DeviantArt, done by Kim Wells at Death or Glory Tattoos in Gainesville, Florida.

2 Adorned Tattoo, Dorset UK

Nobody's saying you have to go by traditional colors, even if your subject matter is rather classic. Some of the most unique and beautiful tattoos owe their lovliness to unexpected colors, expressions or styles of art---don't feel limited by the past!

Vintage glamour

Photo: 1228 Tattoo, Brooklyn NY

Ok, it's a little fresh (aka bloody) but this is too pretty not to share!

abstract beauty

All 3 tattoos by the infamous Xoil

If you're not a fan of the traditional tattoo look, no worries---many of today's artists are doing amazing things including abstract designs, watercolor painting styles and breathtaking realism. The many species of birds makes them wonderful subjects for some of the more experimental tattoo art styles out there!

A few meaningful words...

Given the simplicity of many bird tattoo designs, it's easy to see why the addition of a short quote is appealing. There are plenty of popular quotes that work well with bird tattoos, especially those with a freedom/'uncaged' theme; or choose a more obscure quote from one of your fave pieces of literature.

Here are a few that would be great with a little bird tattoo:

  • "Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild." -Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons
  • 'Somewhere over the rainbow blue birds fly'

    'Somewhere over the Rainbow' from The Wizard Of Oz

  • "If my love could be represented by a blur, it would be the beating of a hummingbird's wings. Did you know that my love is the only love that can fly backwards?" - Jarod Kintz, A Zebra is the Piano of the Animal Kingdom
  • A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. - Chinese Proverb
  • A bird is three things: Feathers, flight and song,

    And feathers are the least of these. -MARJORIE ALLEN SEIFFERT, "The Shining Bird

  • No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings. - William Blake (1757 - 1827)
  • There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover,

    Tomorrow, just you wait and see.

    - Nat Burton, White Cliffs of Dover (song, 1941)

mysterious nightingales

Tattoo: MeanStreet Tattoo, NYC

Would you get a bird tattoo?

What would you get & why? Have a bird tattoo? Think they're awful? I'm so curious...

Romantic bluebirds

Photos: 1 CheckOutMyInk, 2Luuux, 3 BodyGraffixTattoo, 4 Indulgy

The brilliant blue coloring of the aptly named bluebird makes it very popular for tattoos as well---many artists use the two birds rather interchangably since their coloring is very similar. The bluebird doesn't have the darker associations that the swallow is known for however.

Still curious?

If you enjoy having a mind stuffed with random trivia like me, check out some of these links that go much, much deeper into bird symbolism. Not all tattoo related specifically, but plenty of info for the knowledge hungry!

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