Quail are quirky, fun birds. There are varieties of these birds found on nearly every continent on Earth. They are related to chickens and pheasants. You may see some of the chicken “personality” when you observe quails. California Quails in North America have a signature feather on their heads that look like an apostrophe.
Many people love these birds for cultural reasons or their fun personalities. Some of those people have even been driven to get a tattoo to commemorate their connection to the birds. Read on to find out the history and meaning of these tattoos.
What is the History of Quail Tattoos?
There is no history of quail tattoos specifically. However, the animal itself does have some cultural significance and people do associate the bird with particular meanings. Let’s dive into the history of the quail and how different people view it around the world.
In Native American Pima culture, there are several legends surrounding quail. In one story, a group of quail trick Coyote. They are shown to be wise and cunning as well as tricksters.
In the story, the quail birds trick Coyote into eating a part of himself. When he finally discovers what happened, he is furious and they fly away. Then, they hide in a hole. They form a line with a cactus at the back of the line and each quail in front of it.
When Coyote digs out the hole, he asks who tricked him, each quail says no, so he lets them go. When he reaches the cactus, it does not respond. Coyote determines the cactus must be the quail who tricks him and he bites into its prickly outside.
In the Cherokee Nation, there is another story about quail. In this story, the Eagle is giving out powers to the other creatures. The Quail desires to be frightening to men who see it fly. The Eagle says the Quail is too small for that.
Instead, the Eagle decides that the sound of the Quail can be what frightens people. It gives the Quail a whirring sound when it flies that scares people. In this story, the Quail is selfish and proud but also small.
In addition to these legends, the Creek and Cherokee Nations have quail dances included in some of their traditions.
For people tied to these cultures, a tattoo of a quail could be symbolic of their tribe. They may also associate with the characteristics of the bird in legends. Others could use it as a symbol for nature itself.
In other cultures, the bird is also significant. In the Middle Ages in Europe, it was considered a delicacy. It was served to royalty and hunting for the birds was nearly exclusively done by the upper class and royalty.
In Greek mythology, Artemis lives on Quail Island.
Greek mythology also tells of Asteria who is metamorphosized into a quail. Later, she is metamorphosized into an island. Her sister Leto finds refuge on the island. In some tellings of the story, Zeus took the form of a quail when he seduced Leto.
People who are drawn to Artemis, Asteria, or Leto in Greek mythology may get a quail tattoo to honor that connection.
What Do Quail Tattoos Symbolize?
The symbolism behind these pudgy birds is often tied to the personality of the birds when they are observed in the wild.
Quail are almost always seen in groups. They travel in flocks from a young age. In fact, in many places, you will see them crossing the road in a family unit with two large birds and several smaller babies.
People may get a tattoo of these birds to honor that sense of family and community. This could be particularly relevant for someone whose family enjoys watching the birds fly.
These birds are also considered intelligent. They are excellent at finding food and defending themselves. This nature is reflected in the Pima myth of Quail and Coyote that we mentioned earlier.
Individuals may get a quail tattoo if they seek intelligence or if that is a trait they are drawn to. Others may get the tattoo to honor the gift of intelligence that they already have and are developing.
Quail are very aware birds. Since they travel together, they can have several birds that can look out for danger while the others look for food. They have very alert eyes, always watching for predators or food.
Quail mate for life, so they are often treated as a symbol of romance and love.
People with keen eyes and awareness may get a tattoo to commemorate those gifts.
Some dream interpreters think that quail can represent a need to “hunker down” as they are mostly ground birds. People who like to be prepared may get a tattoo to show that.
What do Quail Tattoos Mean?
Because quail are hardly ever found alone, quail tattoos commonly mean someone is drawn to family and community. People with this tattoo could mean to say that they love family and being surrounded by a loving community.
Since quail mate for life, a tattoo of two quail could mean the person is celebrating a romantic relationship that is important to them. They may be represented by one of the birds and their partner is represented by the other.
Other people may get a quail tattoo simply because they like the birds a lot. The birds with the apostrophe shape on their head are unique and quirky. Many people will fall in love with the adorable look of these birds and want the cute image put on their bodies somewhere.
Where do Quail Tattoos Usually Go?
Most people with quail tattoos get them on their forearms. This could be because the space is similar to a wing, like the wing on the birds. It could also be a dainty place, as often the tattoos of these birds are smaller than other tattoos. It is also easy to get matching tattoos on the wrist or forearm.
Characteristics and Styles of Quail Tattoos
People often get small tattoos of these adorable birds. The tattoo may only be one to two inches in diameter. It is very common for these tattoos to be black and white rather than in color.
It is also particularly popular for people to get a tattoo featuring two quail rather than one as a way to celebrate their love.
Quail have significant meaning in Native American, Greek, and European cultures. The birds are symbolic in many ways based on their relationships and behaviors. Many people get tattoos to honor their cute appearance, love, and keen awareness.