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Swallow Tattoo Design Ideas

Swallow tattoo designs are some of the oldest tattoo designs around. People get swallow, or bluebird tattoos for different reasons. Read more about what swallow tattoos mean below. If you want a swallow tattoo and need help coming up with a swallow tattoo design, browse through these pictures of bluebird tattoos for some swallow tattoo ideas of your own.

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The Meaning of Swallow Tattoos

Swallow tattoos go way back to old school sailor tattoo designs. Swallows and bluebirds were one of the first sights that sailors would see when they got close to land. So, swallows became a traditional symbol for sailors of returning home safely.

It didn't take long for swallow tattoos to become a popular tattoo design in many seaports. Today, many sailors still choose swallow tattoo designs for this reason and other people sometimes choose swallows as tattoos for the same reason.

It is also tradition for sailors to get a swallow tattoo every time they have sailed 5,000 nautical miles or cross the equator. Sailors usually get swallow tattoos on their chests.

Another meaning of swallow tattoos is everlasting love because swallows mate for life.

Prison tattoos with swallows or bluebirds are used as a symbol for white supremists. Ex-convicts sometimes get tattoo designs of two swallows after getting out of prison as a symbol for freedom and having done their time.

One of the most famous swallow tattoos is on the arm of one of the most famous people in the world. After playing the part of Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp got a sparrow tattoo.

Swallow Tattoo Design Ideas Comments

djgraylands on April 14, 2012:

I really want to get a swallow, I love birds, and the meaning behind swallows (home) is something special to me. As for all the debate, in Australia you have to wait a year after you get a tattoo before you can donate blood, and they still might reject you depending on where (what country) you got it done, they're pretty strict here. As far as getting any sort of blood borne infection from tattoos, licenced tattooists should be sterilising their tattooing instruments with autoclave equipment, its a part of their licence. I would never go anywhere else but a proper licenced professional for a tattoo, its not worth the risk- Hepetitis C is for life.

nate on February 21, 2012:

in aussie swallows tattooed on the hands between the thumb and first finger mean "flying fists" a lot of fighters get them

Jake on January 22, 2012:

Lies!! I have many tattoos and have given blood many many times.

venusdoom on December 24, 2011:

i gave blood this year and i have 3 tatoos.So u can give blood if u have tatoos.

Bianca on November 23, 2011:

The swallow/blue bird can be used for many reasons but it mainly symbolized for the navy for sailors to find way home! My grandfather was a deep sea diver he has the swallow tattooed as well as the anchor, he recently passed away October 2011 and I am getting the two tattooed on myself once I've had my baby. So not only was it symbolic to him being in the navy it's symbolic to me as it was my grandfathers life and passion so it's my grandad.

sackofwine on October 27, 2011:

Hey compo-smart or should i say compu-dum the swallow blue bird comes from the navy 5000.mile not from prison but you r to dum to know the facts

Kiki on October 26, 2011:

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Thank you for posting such beautiful designs. I am looking for a swallow to have tatted on my foot along with a tree. My father has 2 swallows on his arm that he got while in the Navy. He is losing his battle with a very rare and rapidly progressing cancer. The tree is the symbol for the disease that he has. He actually is dying because of a parasite he ingested while on tour serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

I want to memorialize him in this tatoo and am having it placed on my foot to symbolize that though he will be gone he still walks with me and guides my steps. My appointment is tomorrow and I again thank you for the inspiration in what style I want.

It has also been enjoyable reading the comments from others that have been submitted and learning the history and meaning of the swallow. I only have a few precious days left with my amazing daddy, and I am pleased to know that doing this will keep his memory permanently etched upon my body as well as my soul.

Michael on June 10, 2011:

I am looking for someone to take my idea for a tattoo, and see it come to frutition. Full back tattoo. Empty Tomb of Jesus. The Stone rolled away. Light spilling out of the tomb, showing the slab, with white burial cloth spilling off the edge. Fog coming out of the Tomb. A sword sticking in the ground to one side of the door, med foreground perhaps. A simple roman Helmet hanging off the hilt of the sword. Single set of footsteps in the fog, coming out of the tomb. Another set up footsteps leading away from the sword. The footsteps meet midway in the picture. But only one set of footsteps actually leaves the picture. All of this to represent the footsteps in the sand. Also to show the soldier leaving behind his old

MuzFairy on March 20, 2011:

All your comments give me so much hope..! I'm thinking of getting a black and grey swallow tattoo (and still looking for the perfect design) and I keep wondering what people will think of me if I do it.. So many people told me that tats are trashy, or only meant for sluts, ex-cons or sailors.. I'm none of the above and I think it sucks that such a cool art gets trashed by people who just don't get it. I'm afraid my parents, and mostly grand-parents, will judge me if I get inked, but I don't want to get tagged for it.. My opinion is, we only have one life to live. So I prefer doing it and taking the risk of regretting, then not doing it at all.

Jill Jones on December 16, 2010:

Tattoos DO NOT automatically disqualify you from donating blood. I am an EMT. I have 16 tattoos and when you each a tattoo it only disqualifies you from donating blood for a year. Not forever.

JAG 1 on October 01, 2010:

To the comment a few posts back (shauna). It was actually a dove carrying an olive branch back to Noahs arc signifying that it had found land. But u got th message. God bless u all

Angela Harris (author) from Around the USA on October 01, 2010:

Das Kessler, Great story about your tats. It's really cool when tattoos have such significance to someone- not just a whim or fad that they fall for. Great advice about tattoos, too. Thanks for sharing!

dAs KeSsLeR on October 01, 2010:

I have a set of swallows between my hips and my navel just below my waist band. I have a very good friend that I paid homage to by getting these very colorful bird tattoos. My reason was: A fellow Marine that needed to find his way home, not only mentally, but his family and friends that all care. Nothing says love like old school tatz.

Ink poisoning...seriously? Are you not using a certified and professional tattoo artist, using the most sterile equipment, new needles and in a studio? The guy/gal that sticks you with ink in your garage or basement isn't the the artist I would use to ever lay ink on MY SKIN for all eternity.

Some people know what they want for art on their bodies, while others are a dare or a whim that results in sub-standard work. Do your research, talk to artists and give it thought. If for example you can walk away from an impulse tattoo for like months, but it still comes back to you as something significant...its usually something you are ready to do.

Em on September 25, 2010:

Most of these are to colorful i think and makes them look a little trashy ! Hey that's just my opinion tho ! each to their own ....

Shauna G on August 31, 2010:

I believe the sparrow is a sign of HOPE that comes from the beginning of time, when the sparrow flew from Noah's Ark to find land, many times the sparrow came back with nothing, then finally the sparrow came back with a branch from a fig tree...this gave them all HOPE....just my opinion though ;)

Sohaib on August 02, 2010:

Tattoos are cool. On someone else, that is. I wouldn't want them on me, though

KYMBERLY on July 18, 2010:

hahaha your all hilarious.... tattoos are personal, an although the sailor thing n parts of the prison thing are true its not set in stone... everyone gets tats for diff reasons n how they choose to interpret them is a personal thing.. i hate boats and dont plan on going anywhere near prison i am getting a small swallow on the outside of my wrist and already have two swallows on my chest and they are to commemorate the tenth anniversary of my farthers death who also had the same two swallows on his chest... he also was not a con nor a sailor...

that aside some interesting pics here aside from the size of them...

kym on June 23, 2010:

Great pics of Swallow tats. Thanks

vanessa on June 15, 2010:

i love swallows

smudge uk army on May 30, 2010:

great pics thanks...

sammi on May 18, 2010:

the guy who posted that guys in the uk who have a swallow on their neck have all been to prison is completely wrong actually it means they were probably in the navy at some point

pixee on December 19, 2009:

i got a tattoo and donated blood 2 weeks later =] guess its different everywhere! and the blood poisening thing.. it's just what your parents tell you so you don't want tats =P x

andrea on December 09, 2009:

someone asked if u get a tat can u donate? u can donate blood but it has to be a year after getting the tat but thts same with piercings and stuff

Becky on November 21, 2009:

Really? Whoever posted the first comment says that tattoos on the neck are done in prison and that's a fact. Well, I have news for you. I've never been to prison, and my neck and throat are covered. Completely encircled in tattoos. I'm just artistic and like to share my art. I'm not an ex-con. Not even close. I would also be able to donate blood here in the US... if I could go a year without getting tattooed. It's the same for a piercing, including ear piercing, whether it's a sterile environment or not. 12 months.

Thanks for opening your minds, people!

Joey on November 20, 2009:

ummmm....i'm guessing, just so settle this frankly hilarious argument, that in different parts of the world, the law is different. like in britain, i can give blood.

double sleeves.

Maggie on August 30, 2009:

You must wait 12 months after having a tattoo or piercing to donate blood.


yoho on July 19, 2009:

You can't give blood if you've recently been to a dentist also.


Jenn on June 17, 2009:

Swallows never fly far from land. The sailors always knew they were close to home when they saw swallows flying.

Lauren on May 22, 2009:

I am getting a unique swallow design this thursday on the top of my back/neck , it is my first tattoo and i am really excited to get it done i think my design is lovely and it means a lot to me, i am getting it in black and grey shadding not colour. :-)

Hollie on May 12, 2009:

I have swallows on my arm, part of my old skool sleeve. Swallows like any other tattoo have different meanings to different people.Some may be ex con's, some like my grandad have them from back in the day- fashion, some may have been or still are in the navy or some like me just appriciate the old skool!

Robban on May 01, 2009:

People allways says that swallow are ex-con tattoos. It's bullshit. It's a sailor tattoo, swallows allways find home. And it's also a tattoo that represends loyalty to the family and friends and to your love. Because Swallows stick to the same partner all their life.

Excuse my bad english :)

px on February 08, 2009:

In Scotland ex-cons get a pair of small swallow tattoos on their hands, in the space between their thumb and forefinger. It indicates that they've "flown free".

KJ on November 07, 2008:

that's not true- I am a registered nurse, I have tattoos, you can still donate blood. I donate blood through the Red Cross.

nicole on September 29, 2008:

tattoos do NOT give you blood poisoning. And you can donate blood right after so long as you got it done in a certified parlor. At least in california, anyway.

peace_is_love from north carolina on September 10, 2008:

thanks for the hub. i'm looking at getting a swallow tattoo sometime soon. i'm glad that i was able to see different versions of the bird on here. <3

ash on June 10, 2008:

haha only for 6 months...

BeatsMe on May 25, 2008:

Actually, if you have tattoos, you can't donate blood. You're automatically disqualified. It's a fact.

xoxogirl29 on May 21, 2008:

Is it true that tattoos give you blood piosoning??!?

BeatsMe on May 18, 2008:

Tattoos are cool. On someone else, that is. I wouldn't want them on me, though.

Tony Sky from London UK on May 11, 2008:

In the UK, you will see guys who have swallows on their neck!!.These guys were more than likely to have been in prison at some point or another!! just a fact!;)

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