Bird tattoos have left their mark in practically every culture. In America, the eagle has made its way into many tattoos; however, there is, in fact, a different bird to represent every state in the country, and are often used to show regional pride. In Egyptian mythology the heron is said to be the creator of gods, goddesses, man and universe. Celtic mythology tells of women transformed into swans, and in Jewish tradition, the dove is seen as a guide to the soul. These are but a few of the many stories, traditions and religious beliefs that feature birds.
One of the most popular bird tattoos is the swallow. This bird was originally used by sailors; they could represent anything from a successfully completed journey, to a protection of their souls on unpredictable waters. Later, swallows become a kitschy image, and were used alongside things such as dice, nautical stars and musical notes. Today they are meant mostly as a symbol of freedom. They are usually seen in blues, yellows and reds; and are generally depicted in flight upon the shoulder blades, hands, hips or neck.
Cardinals are also widely featured in bird tattoos. These delicate and brightly colored birds
are said to be a symbol of happiness and vitality. The most widely recognized is the Northern cardinal, who is colored in a bold red hue (occasionally with burgundy wings), and a black mask on its face. However, there is the Yellow-green Grosbeak which — like its namesake — is an unusual hue of iridescent yellow and green, or the Blue Bunting who is similar in appearance to the Northern, save for its striking indigo hue. The cardinal can appear alone in your piece, or you may have a variety of cardinals, all flying in different directions.
Bird tattoos are generally rife with meaning of their own; however, you can apply your own
meaning as well. For instance, a parrot on your shoulder may be a sign of luck or protection, as it ‘watches out’ for you, and can whisper warnings in your ear. A canary may be a great design for a musician or singer, as they are known for their beautiful voices. A flamingo may be a sign of quirky personality, and kingfishers can be the symbol of a well practiced huntsman.
Whatever design or bird you choose, no matter what your reasoning may be, there is always one thing you can be certain of; your bird tattoos will be strong symbols of freedom and a connection to the sky above and the Earth below.