Pelican Tattoo: Symbolism, Meanings & More

Pelican Tattoo: Symbolism, Meanings & More

Getting body art done shows what matters most in life to you or even symbolizes memories and future wishes. Because bird tattoos are so versatile, they have become trendy in many tattoo parlors.

Even the symbolism of bird tattoos represents versatility from optimism and happiness to independence and freedom. Don’t forget the dove of peace.

One bird that is climbing the popularity ladder is the pelican. Whether you are doing yours in black and white, full color, in-flight, or just lazing around the harbor, its meaning to you is what matters.

Exploring the multitude of meanings, symbolism, and designs available to this water bird will enlighten you.

It can symbolize your urge for wealth and abundance, or it can symbolize your spirit animal, ready in the wings to teach you about self-sacrifice. 

Symbolism And Meaning

Getting a pelican tattoo has various meanings. It’s all in the eye of the beholder or rather the person who is wearing it in this case.

They can stand for teamwork, life, motherhood, or even relationships if you are going down the uplifting path



Or, if you are more into monetary symbolism, the pelican can symbolize your desire to the universe to have so much money and wealth in life.

As much as can be held in its beak. They are laser-focused on a specific goal. Perched in an advantage point to observe what is coming their way. And then they fly fearlessly to grab their best catch. 

History and Self-sacrifice  

Self-sacrifice is the oldest symbolism for this bird.

It all dates back to the ancient Egyptians. During the time of famine, they believed that the mother pelican ripped her breast open and let her blood flow into her babies’ mouths so that they could be fed.

Although no one has ever seen this happening in modern times. But who doesn’t love a heartwarming story? The meaning behind this symbolism is in the line of ‘I am buoyant, able to rise above my troubles.


A little more on the gorry side is another legendary and even mythical description in the second century A.D. text. In this text, it describes where a mother pelican kills her rebellious young.

Just like in the other story, she uses her own blood again and sacrifices herself by doing so to resurrect them three days later. 

Moving along in history, this bird’s symbolism evolved and includes self-sacrifice and philanthropy, devotedness, and the wealth of nature.

It even came to symbolize Jesus. All thanks to the Christians who took the stature of what the pelican stood for further. It symbolizes the way that Jesus gave his life for the penance of mortals by way of his crucifixion and death. 

Honored by Legends of History 

The pelican was valued and respected by legends of history and was honored in many ways.

Like, the Rosicrucians, an ancient society of mystics, were even called the Knights of the Pelican. Shakespeare made reference to this majestic bird in Hamlet where he wrote To his good friend thus wide, I’ll open my arms. And, like the kind, life-rendering pelican. Repast them with my blood.


Another poet, this time an Italiane called Dante, even referenced Christ in his works as our pelican. To symbolize her selfless love for her people, Queen Elizabeth the First had a portrait commissioned of her wearing a pelican pendant. 

Perfection and Purification 

Alchemists thought it fitting and honorable to have this waterbird symbolize their Philosopher’s Stone. The legendary and mysterious element that turns baser metals like lead to gold when you add them together.

The excitement and allure in the belief that the winged animal has magical life-giving powers coax the alchemists to have the pelican symbolize strive for perfection and purification. 


As symbolism for the pelican is diverse, the same goes for the meaning behind such a tattoo. It can be incredibly uplifting and colorful. Not all pelicans are lone flyers.


Many benefit more in a group where healthy relationships are key. Group fishers are reliant on the whole group effort in their hunt and catch for fish. 

Design and Placement

Just as the meaning and symbolism are so diverse, the abundance in design and placement for these birds are off the charts.


Birds tattoos, overall, can be placed literally anywhere on your body, and the pelican is no exception.

For the guys, they are popularly inked on their chests or back, whereas the ladies prefer them more on the hands, forearms, and necks.

If it has a particular deeper meaning to you, instead, choose your ink spot on your baby where you can admire it (even if it’s in the reflection of the mirror).


A place where you can appreciate it for as long as you physically can. For those of you who love to flaunt their body art, choose an area large enough that it can showcase this large bird entirely without distorting.

You can also incorporate it into your half or full-sleeve design. 


The style options for these designs are endless. These include:

  • Traditional American style, 
  • Japanese, 
  • Black and grey, 
  • Full color, 
  • Watercolor 
  • 3D
  • Abstract
  • Paint Brush strokes
  • Geometric
  • Graffiti
  • Hyper-realistic 
  • Neo-traditional
  • New school
  • Stained glass

There is no shame in wanting the exact same tattoo as you see on a site, right down to the same colors used. Just remember that as no two composers are the same, no two tattoo artists are the same.

If your heart is set on a Japanese-style tattoo, make sure that the tattoo artist you are going to is well versed in the style. Or you can always ask your tattoo artist’s opinion on the idea you have.

This is their passion, so they will have a better idea of what will work, on which body part in what style.


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