You’ve decided you want to get a hummingbird tattoo. You might be overwhelmed by the options you have, or just curious about hummingbird tattoos: history, meanings, and designs.
Hummingbirds represent many concepts, and are important in many cultures. These meanings can help you decide design elements that would make your hummingbird tattoo right for you.
I’ll discuss the many meanings and symbols of hummingbird tattoos, as well as their long history.
What is the History of Hummingbird Tattoos?
Since hummingbirds held great meaning throughout indigenous cultures of the Americas, it’s easy to assume the history of hummingbird tattoos could stretch back for the centuries of their existence.
Native Americans used needles to poke the skin, putting soot or plant-based colors into the wound. Individuals often got tattoos to symbolize their accomplishments. In Aztec culture, tattoos were part of religious rites.
It wouldn’t be surprising at all if hummingbird tattoos were as popular then as they are now.
What do Hummingbird Tattoos Symbolize?
Hummingbirds are and were an important bird for indigenous cultures throughout the Americas.
Most notably, the Aztecs believed dead warriors came back as hummingbirds in their next lives. They also had a god who often appeared in the form of a hummingbird: Huitzilopochtli.
In Aztec mythology, Huitzilopochtli also led the Aztecs from their ancestral home to the Valley of Mexico. This reflects the natural behavior of hummingbirds, as many species migrate over long distances.
In other Native American cultures, hummingbirds represented love and attraction.
Today, the Jamaican national animal is a hummingbird, specifically, the red-billed streamertail. It’s the Jamaican hummingbird with the largest population on the island.
Trinidad and Tobago are a modern hummingbird sanctuary. The islands are home to 17 different species. Trinidad also boasts the nickname “The Land of the Hummingbird.”
What do Hummingbird Tattoos Mean?
A hummingbird tattoo can mean any number of things, depending on the individual.
Many associate hummingbirds with resilience, strength, and hard work. A hummingbird has to work very hard in order to survive. Along with their small size, this makes them surprisingly mighty. You might get a hummingbird tattoo to represent making it through difficult periods of your life.
Since hummingbirds are almost constantly in flight, they can also represent energy and effort.
Hummingbirds don’t often fly in groups. A hummingbird tattoo, therefore, could also symbolize your independence and free spirit.
Hummingbirds tend not to do well in captivity, either. This could represent a need for freedom.
Other associations with hummingbirds include peace, love, joy, hope, and life. Since they’re among our most beautiful birds, your hummingbird tattoo could just be an appreciation for their bright and lovely presence.
More recently, many interpret hummingbird yard visits as a deceased loved one stopping by to say hello. If you have an association between a person who has passed on and hummingbirds, you could get a tattoo of a hummingbird as a memorial to them.
Characteristics and Styles of Hummingbird Tattoos
Since hummingbird tattoos work well in any tattooing style or level of detail, there are many aspects to consider before getting one. I’ll go through a few of them.
Hummingbird Pose and Appearance
Even though hummingbirds spend a lot of time in flight, they’re still striking at rest. You’ll want to decide whether you want your hummingbird tattoo flying or perched.
There are also a few appearance elements to consider. Do you want a long or short-beaked hummingbird? Would you prefer your tattoo’s colors to reflect the natural ones of a hummingbird, or would you rather have more vibrant and bold color choices? Does your hummingbird have a long or a short tail?
Do you want a black and white or a color hummingbird tattoo? Keep in mind color often costs more than black and white, though both options make for striking tattoos.
You’ll want to do some research into tattooing styles before getting your tattoo. Hummingbird tattoos look good in most styles. Popular ones include American traditional, watercolor, outline, and realistic. The style of tattoo will also influence the amount of detail.
If you have a connection to Aztec culture, you might want to include some Aztec symbology in your tattoo. If you don’t, it’s best not to include it.
Pairing with Flowers
Hummingbirds and flowers depend on each other for survival. Therefore, it’s common to pair hummingbirds and flowers together in tattoos. You can pick any flower, based on your preference or on the flower’s meaning. If you’re struggling with options, here are some real-life flowers hummingbirds love:
- Bee balm
- Delphiniums (larkspur)
Pairing with Insects
Hummingbirds are often tattooed with other insects, one of the most popular being a butterfly. Like hummingbirds, butterflies are pollinators. Both could work well with each other, and with a flower.
Butterflies also represent beauty, femininity, and transition. Since hummingbirds represent strength and resilience, this is an interesting pairing of symbols in a tattoo.
Pairings of Peace
Hummingbirds represent peace in many cultures. If you’re especially fond of this meaning, you can pair your hummingbird with another peace symbol. This could be another bird, like a dove. Olive branches, mistletoe, and rainbows are other visually interesting peace symbols. You can also use the circular peace sign, or the v-fingers salute.
Hummingbirds usually move their wings in a figure eight or infinity symbol pattern. Pairing a hummingbird with an infinity symbol can create a simplistic but striking tattoo. It can represent eternity, eternal strength, or eternal peace.
Where do Hummingbird Tattoos Usually Go?
Because hummingbirds tend to be small, a hummingbird tattoo can go anywhere on your body. If you want a smaller hummingbird, you might place it on your ankle, neck, behind your ear, on your stomach, or even on your foot.
A larger hummingbird tattoo would fit well on your shoulder, upper or lower back, or sides. If you want space to pair flowers, multiple hummingbirds, or insects, a larger tattoo might be the way to go.
Hummingbirds have many meanings, both historical and cultural. This makes hummingbird tattoos popular for all genders and types of people. Considering these meanings, and popular pairings, can help you create the hummingbird tattoo that fits you best.