Feather Tattoos

Close-Up Of Young Woman Over Blue Background
Thomas Weng / Eyeem / Getty Images

Colorful and bold, or simple and symbolic, feather tattoos have rich history and significance. Before you decide on a feather, get to know the bird and its traits and you'll have a tattoo that's even more meaningful.

Popular Types of Feather Tattoos

While some bird tattoos are chosen for their choice and colorful feathers, a single fallen feather tattoo may be symbolic of loss, birth, and even luck.

Luck and fortune feather tattoos can also pay tribute to a family tribe or clan. Take a look at the many different types of meanings behind popular bird tattoos and their feathers.

Popular Birds and their Winged Meanings

While often referred to a symbol of death, Native Americans believe the owl offers protection against evil spirits. The owl is also symbolic of intelligence and mystery. Whether you're into magic and the fantastical world of sorcery or appreciate the wisdom of this messenger bird, owls—and their feathers—make a wise choice.

A tattoo fit for royalty, a colorful peacock makes a vivid and beautiful tattoo design for the arms, back or rib cage. Symbolic of rebirth and renewal in Christianity teachings, the beautiful bird represents holiness, and at times, a touch of vanity.

In Aesop's Fables The Peacock and Juno, the peacock learns the "Lots of each has been assigned by the will of the Fates," and must accept his beauty, in lieu of melodic song.

In other parts of the world, the peacock is equally loved. Hindus believe peacocks signify kindness, luck, and compassion. In some cultures, the birds are etched amongst the thrones of royalty. If you like to show off a bit, then be proud and get inked with this colorful bird.

To pay tribute to the United States, freedom, and bravery, nothing beats an all-American, old school eagle. Waving a banner from its beak or taking flight amongst a cloud of roses, eagle tattoos make for wonderful memorial and military tattoos, and can even incorporate dates for more personal meaning.

In Greek mythology, a feather from a Phoenix is said to promise eternal life. Inking a feather from this mythical bird is one way to display your immortality. After setting his own nest to flames, the Phoenix was reborn three days later. A flaming feather makes a blazing design idea when inked in full color.

While not nearly as respected as the others, the seagull can represent many things including a love for the ocean and also rising above life's tides. In the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, an outcast seagull learns about purpose and flight by staying true to himself and believing in his own dreams despite fleeing the pack. A simple outline of a seagull's wings in flight can depict the same message to fly high above doubt and believe in yourself.

How to Design a Feather Tattoo

Once you have your bird selected you can begin working with your artist to begin designing a feather tattoo. You may choose to add lots of color to your piece or add just a few select shades to make for a more realistic feather design.​

Native American Inspiration

So much of feathered art can be linked to Native American culture and symbolism. Dreamcatchers, the Kokopelli, wild Buffalo, and totem poles can all be incorporated into a feather design to create an Indian-inspired tattoo. Add lots of turquoise, coral, and dune colors to create an earthly and spiritual piece.

Research to Find a Feather

For feathered inspiration, hit the books. Go to the library or bookstore (or surf the web) and scour pictures of various types of birds and check out their unique feather patterns and colors.

After you find a feather you fancy, discover more about the bird and see if its culture or origin can represent some greater, personal significance. Once you've found the bird, let your design ideas take flight.

Related Stories