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50+ Swallow Tattoo Design and Placement Ideas Plus Meanings for Every Style and Placement that You Need to Know

By Jason Hamilton / February 29, 2020
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Swallow tattoo designs are very meaningful that makes it all the more worthy of a spot in your body. It also has several variations. Hence, you have more options to choose from to really express yourself.

But like any other tattoos, it would be best to get to know it first before you give it a go. Lucky for you, you’ve come to the right place as we can give you facts about this bird tattoo design variations and ideas in case you’re eyeing for this design. So without further ado, let’s get to know this tattoo better.


A Closer Look at the Swallow

For starters, no, it’s not a tattoo that depicts the verb swallow. Rather, it is a bird that looks a bit like the sparrow. But don’t confuse it with the latter. While they may look a bit the same and their names sound nearly the same as well, a sparrow has broader wings and has a rounded head and tail. On the other hand, swallows have a cone-shaped body that is longer than the sparrow’s. Also, these creatures have a flat head and their neck, compared to sparrows, are not that visible. Also, their wings are much more pointed and their tail may be forked or notched.


A side by side comparison of the two bird species (Left: a tattoo of a sparrow; Right: a tattoo of a swallow)

When used as a tattoo, sparrows and swallows have different meanings too. Read on to see what each of these birds mean.


Swallow Tattoo Meaning

Because swallows and sparrows kind of resemble each other, especially if you will not look at it closer, people also confuse these birds’ meanings when used as tattoos. But to give you a better idea, swallow species travel great distances every year, migrating from one side of the planet to another. And for that reason, swallows are often associate with safe homecoming and traveling. On the other hand, sparrow tattoos can mean determination, assertion, and cheerfulness.

Thus, if you travel a lot, want to travel, or want to come home, a swallow tattoo is the best design for you. But if you want something to symbolize your strong determination in life, contention, and/or glee, the sparrow tattoo fits you best.


Swallow Tattoo Origin

Swallow tattoos didn’t just exist like magic. Apparently, this idea sprouted from British navy folklore. According to stories, it started with the sailors during the early days of sailing. They often had it tattooed on the hands, neck, and on the chest. Sailors back then even had a swallow tattoo variation to show how much one has traveled. For instance, if a sailor has one swallow tattoo, it means that he has already travelled more than 5,000 nautical miles. And for two swallow tattoos, this means that the sailor has traveled 10,000 nautical miles. Since traveling back in the early days was extremely difficult and dangerous, one or more swallow tattoos denotes a very valuable and experienced sailor.

People back then also had it inked on their body to represent or have a guide as they travel back home. This is because of the nature of the actual birds where they return to the same location yearly to nest and mate.


Swallow Tattoo Designs

While swallow tattoos generally mean safe voyage, overtime, it has garnered several different meanings, especially based on its design – and by that we mean color. There are a few color combinations that suit swallow tattoo best that will surely bring out its meaning all the more. Yes, you can’t just combine any color for this tattoo if you want it to be really meaningful. But don’t worry, we got your back. Here are some color options and their meanings that you should take note of.

Swallow Tattoo Color Meanings

Red and black swallow tattoos symbolize distinction and adventure. Here are some ideas for that.



A red and black swallow tattoo on the shoulder

A red and  black swallow accented with an orange ink


A swallow in black in with a little hint of red ink on the neck area

A swallow tattoo mainly in red ink flying downwards


Red and black swallows with blue and orange ink

Red and black swallow highlighted with yellow-orange ink

Another black and red swallow flying downwards


A red and black swallow paired with rose tattoos

A red and black swallow inked on the foot

Meanwhile, blue swallow tattoos are just popular because of its bright beautiful color that’s very aesthetically pleasing. Also, back in the day, this signified that land is near. Here are some samples if you wish to have a trendier swallow tattoo.


A blue swallow inked on the shoulder

A wrist tattoo of a swallow in blue, red, and black ink


A blue and yellow swallow


A traditional swallow tattoo in blue, yellow, black, and red ink

Another traditional tattoo of a swallow placed on the shoulder area


A Pretty blue swallow with long lashes to make it look more feminine

A blue swallow with red and orange accents

A combination of swallow and anchor tattoo designs


A blue and orange swallow inked on the ankle

A colorful swallow, on the other hand, is often associated with flowers blooming and spring time. Hence, it can represent your endurance after different circumstances

An old school but still cool swallow foot tattoo paired with a rose and other flowers


Two unique swallow tattoos in unique color combinations


A watercolor tattoo of a swallow with a word tattoo that reads “Mom”

You can also go for black and white swallow tattoos. Such style is often associated with a person’s experience in sailing.

Swallows looking like a charcoal painting

Three swallows tattooed on the back of the upper part of the arm

A fine dotwork tattoo of a swallow

A realistic swallow in flight



A realistic crowned swallow carrying a sword

A swallow tattoo with splats of colors as its backdrop

Swallow Tattoo Placement

While you can place a tattoo anywhere on your body, there are certain placements that will make a swallow tattoo stand out and meaningful all the more. Here are some recommendations on where you can place your swallow tattoo.


If you ink a swallow on your shoulder, it can represent how you live your life to the fullest as you explore the world.

A traditional style swallow tattoo on the left shoulder

A combination of swallow and flower tattoos placed just below the collarbone

A realistic tattoo of a swallow placed below the collarbone

Another realistic tattoo of a swallow but this time, it is placed on the right shoulder blade and is drawn with closed wings

A traditional style tattoo of a swallow bellow the right collarbone

A tattoo of a swallow paired with a name tattoo

Four swallows lined up

Another realistic tattoo of a swallow placed on top of the shoulder

A classic tattoo of a swallow also placed on top of the shoulder


In some cultures, they also believe that swallows bring financial success. And if you ink this on your hand, it can represent power in fighting. Not like having power over an enemy, though. Rather with life itself. Take a look at these samples for a better idea.

A tiny tattoo of a swallow in blue and red ink

Matching swallow tattoos placed on both hands

A tattoo of a swallow combined with a moon tattoo

A black and white tattoo of a swallow

A realistic tattoo of a swallow on flight placed on the left hand

A black and white swallow o the right hand

Two swallow bird tattoos; one placed at the back of the hand and the other on the forearm

A closed-winged swallow paired with geometric tattoo

A swallow paired with a rose tattoo


If you ink a swallow on your wrist, this represents freedom from an affliction, loyalty, and love for family. Sometimes, it can also mean overcoming adversity and rebirth. Here are some ideas.

A simple yet detailed swallow tattoo in watercolor style

Blackout swallow tattoos

An intricately detailed tattoo of a close-winged swallow paired with a Gemini tattoo

Small blackout swallow tattoos on the wrist

An outline of a swallow on the outer part of the wrist

Swallow tattoos are really one of the great tattoo ideas that will never run out of style. It’s also perfect, especially for people who travel a lot. However, do take note of its right placements and colors to make its significance stand out all the more. And what makes this tattoo design all the more worth the pain is that you can also pair it with other certain tattoos that are also related to strength, safety, and the likes. In addition to that, you can enhance its aesthetics with such designs too.

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About the author

Jason Hamilton

Jason has been an avid fan of tattoos for over 13 years now. He is currently 35 years old, and he got his first tattoo at the age of 22. Since then, he has added over 20 tattoos to his collection. He is also into writing, which is why he decided to celebrate both of his passion and hobby through tats ‘n’ rings. Jason dreams of having his very own tattoo parlor soon. Jason would be very happy to answer any questions about tattoos that you may have! Leave a comment below and he’ll answer it for you right away!

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