Albatross Tattoos: Symbolism, Meanings & More

Albatross Tattoos: Symbolism, Meanings & More

Albatrosses are spectacularly large seabirds that can be found soaring above the waters of the Southern Ocean and North Pacific.

As an animal that can fly incredibly long distances without the need to land, albatrosses represent strength, endurance, and the freedom that comes with flight.

They are also known for their good luck and as a portent of doom.

The albatross is a legendary bird and a popular subject for tattoos. Although its symbolism and meanings differ from person to person and culture to culture, there are several universal elements that we can discuss.

This article outlines all the possible meanings of an albatross tattoo, as well as some background information about albatrosses themselves so that you can see whether this type of tattoo is right for you.

What is an albatross?

Albatrosses belong to the Diomedeidae family of seabirds and they are one of the largest flying birds in the world.

In fact, the Great Albatross species has the longest wingspan of any living bird, reaching up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) across!

You can easily spot an albatross soaring in the sky by its enormous size and large, strong bill with a distinctive hook at the tip.


They are generally white with dark colors on their upper wing and back, although this varies from species to species.

Albatrosses spend most of their time at sea and their diet reflects this.They tend to feed on squid, fish, and krill and they catch their food by scavenging what is already dead, catching prey on the surface, or diving deep into the water.

Although they spend much of their time flying, albatrosses still need to nest and they usually group together in a colony on remote oceanic islands.

Once they bond with a mate, the relationship lasts for the rest of their lives. The female will lay just one egg a year.

Interestingly, the oldest recorded bird in the world is an albatross named Wisdom. It lives on Midway Island and was first recorded in 1956. This makes it over 66 years old!

The History of Albatross Symbolism

Much of the popular symbolism about the albatross comes from the famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which was written by Samuel Taylor Colerigde in 1798.

In the poem, a group of sailors set out to see and they were followed by an albatross, which was considered a sign of good luck.


However, the mariner shot the albatross with a crossbow which caused the ship and its sailors to be beset with bad luck. The ship had been cursed.

The ship’s crew blamed the mariner for their bad luck and they tied the dead bird around his neck as punishment and a sign of his guilt.

Thanks to this poem, the albatross can symbolize both good and bad luck. The image of the bird around the man’s neck is also a metaphor for a burden that is hard to overcome.

What does an albatross tattoo symbolize?

Thanks to the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and an albatross’s ability to fly long distances over the ocean, this type of bird has several symbolic meanings.

  1. Good luck or a good omen

Sailors are notoriously suspicious people and they have long believed that the albatross carries the souls of long-dead sailors. These souls were looking over them and protecting them from harm.

Albatrosses were also considered to be a good omen for a safe sail, bringing much-needed wind to fill out their sails.

  1. Bad luck or a bad omen

Some sailors also believed that if you saw an albatross this was bad luck or an omen that something bad would happen.

If you were particularly suspicious, an albatross meant that someone was doomed to die very soon!

  1. Guilt and punishment

In the poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the sailor who killed the albatross was punished by having the dead bird hung around his neck.

It is potent symbolism, representing guilt that is very difficult for someone to overcome or seek forgiveness for.

  1. Freedom

Birds, with the ability to fly away whenever they want, are fantastic symbols of freedom, and albatrosses are no exception.

  1. Strength and durability

Albatrosses can fly for days on end without having to land. They symbolize strength and durability and the ability to continue in the face of adversity.

  1. Loyalty

Albatrosses are very loyal to each other. Once they find a mate, they mate for life and will only find another partner if the other one dies.

  1. Wanderlust

Wanderlust is the desire to travel the world and explore.

With the longest wingspan of any bird in the world, and the ability to fly for days on end, albatrosses are a great way to express the desire to get out there and see what the world has to offer.

Why is the albatross a popular tattoo choice?

The albatross is a popular tattoo choice for many reasons:

  1. Albatrosses can be shown in many ways and positions, from soaring in the sky to nesting on the ground.
  2. Unlike most birds, albatrosses have both positive and negative symbolism attached to them.
  3. Albatrosses have meanings for many different cultures, from the sailors of England to the New Zealand Maori.

What are the best locations for an albatross tattoo?

If you want a large tattoo, having an albatross with outstretched wings on your back is a powerful statement.

If you are interested in the symbolism of guilt and redemption, you could even have a tattoo of a dead albatross around your neck.

However, this is a bold tattoo and only recommended for those who really appreciate the symbolism!

The most important thing to consider when choosing the place for your tattoo is to be yourself. Place your tattoo on the part of your body that feels right for you.


So, is an albatross tattoo right for you?

An albatross tattoo has many meanings but the most recognizable are symbols for good luck (or a good omen), bad luck (or a bad omen), and irredeemable guilt.

If you think that any of these meanings apply to you, the albatross might just be the tattoo you need.

Leave a Reply