Hummingbirds flit between flowers like bumble bees, hovering where it suits them, and sticking their head in neck-deep to get at the sweet nectar. These birds make up the tiniest family of avians, at least as far as size is concerned. They appear so rarely that legends call them messengers of the heavens, and seeing one means good things lay in store for you. But the symbolism of the hummingbird goes much deeper than that, and combining them with a 2D art form like tattooing adds an extra layer of meaning. If you’re interested in hummingbird tattoos, look no further! Today’s gallery contains tons of information about these flighty birds and over a dozen gallery images to browse through!
Hummingbird Tattoo Meaning
What does a hummingbird symbolize? While these creatures might seem peppy, death always lurks nearby. They have to eat the calorie equivalent of 1,300 bird-sized hamburgers every day just to survive. All those calories go towards their amazing flight skills, and some of these birds even use their strength to migrate vast distances! Because of this, the hummingbird represents perseverance, joy, and liveliness. Even in the face of death, they live life to the fullest.
Some South American cultures take this even further and associate the bird with resurrection. During the night and cold snaps, hummingbirds enter a torpor, which is sort of like a light hibernation, and can appear dead to onlookers. As soon as the sun comes out, they snap back to life! On top of that, many myths say that hummingbirds bring news from heaven to the living. In Hopi legends, the hummingbird sent a message from earth to heaven asking for rain, and the gods obliged. In Cherokee tales, the hummingbird even brought humans tobacco!
This clever, beautiful bird represents life and all of its positives. A hummingbird tattoo reminds us that we must also live day to day, never knowing what the future has in store for us. At the same time, the hummingbird tattoo tells us to stop and look at our past. This bird is one of the few that can fly backwards, so some tales say it can control time! In any case, we must also be careful with the time we have and live life to its fullest.
Realistic Hummingbird Tattoos
Realistic hummingbird tattoos are a bit hit-and-miss. Hummingbirds look so distinct from every other type of bird that artists must have lost of experience drawing them in order to make them look realistic. On top of that, even if your artist inks the bird perfectly, the image will lack the hummingbird’s iridescent feathers. The only type of iridescent tattoo ink out there is either incredibly toxic or incredibly short-lived, so the sheen so characteristic of hummingbird feathers will be missing from a tattoo.
3D Hummingbird Tattoos
If you can look past the limitations of colored ink and find an excellent artist for your tattoo, then a realistic, 3D hummingbird tattoo would look amazing! Because of the small size of hummingbirds, they lend themselves well to a 3D style. A small halo of black ink makes the bird pop, while a concentration of ink where a shadow would naturally fall makes the small hummingbird tattoo look like a bird really is floating just above your skin!
Hummingbird Watercolor Tattoo
If you’re not up for the challenge of finding the perfect realistic hummingbird tattoo—or if you’re just worried about how it will turn out—there’s always stylized hummingbird tattoos. Watercolor hummingbird tattoos look especially good because they don’t require as much detail to capture the form of the bird. Just like tattoo lines can be implied from the shape of the watercolors, the missing iridescent colors can also be overlooked. Hummingbirds pair nicely with another popular watercolor tattoo design—the flower. A small watercolor hummingbird tattoo on the wrist, heart, or ankle makes the area pop with life.
Despite the strength of these amazing birds, they are so fragile that a single sip of an energy drink could send them into a fatal heart attack. One moment they could be rustling their wings to warm up, and the next moment they could drop dead from overheating. This fine line of life and death that hummingbirds navigate around reminds us that we must not take life for granted. A hummingbird tattoo tells us that life must be taken one step at a time, and while hoping for good times is nice, creating good times through sheer will power is even better. You control the life you lead, so you must work hard, just like the hummingbird!
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out the rest of InkDoneRight! We have tons of tattoo galleries, tattoo history features, how-to’s, and more! We even have t-shirts if you want to show off the inked side of you a little more. As always, thanks for reading!