The eagle tattoo isn’t necessarily the most popular bird tattoo that you can get, but it is certainly one of the most beautiful and meaningful out there. What’s interesting about the eagle tattoo is that most people choose to get it for its symbolism rather than its looks, so the beauty of the pieces actually comes as an add-on benefit.
The eagle is a majestic, predatory bird with distinct, recognizable features. There are dozens of species of eagles found all around the globe and they can all be spotted by their large sharp curved beak and talons. Eagles are a very large type of bird, debatably the largest in the world, which often prey on smaller birds, fish, and snakes.
There is a lot to think about if you’re interested in getting an eagle tat, such as the size of the design, the amount of detail you want, and where to place it on your body. On this page we are going to take a look at some of the most commonly used eagle tattoo meanings as well as some of the cool ways that you can get them designed.
Popular Eagle Tattoo Meanings
The eagle is a predatory image, the symbol of a hunter, a tenacious creature, or even a talented and skilled predator. This eagle is often found hunting animals much larger than itself like certain types of wolves which lends to its prestige as a powerful and deadly hunter. That makes them an excellent choice for anyone that loves to go out hunting or even someone who wants to say that they are always “on the hunt” for things that will improve their lives. It can also represent someone’s drive (aka tenaciousness) to be better.
Eagles are also an extremely common icon used to represent diligence and honor, especially when associated with military bodies. These meanings can be used with any type of eagle tattoo, but in most cases you will see the eagle in the design surrounding by other military icons, such as the American flag, weapons, or even soldiers.
Among the most common species of eagle, the Bald Eagle is found all over North America. It is the national bird of the United States of America and is a ubiquitous symbol of liberty in the country. The image of a bald eagle is frequently used to emphasize images of the American flag in order to portray the rights and freedoms available to all American citizens. The bald eagle is a representation of national pride in the United States and is often depicted with stars from the American flag, military emblems, and other animals like wolves.
Because of the eagle’s instinct to go all-out for its food and for travel, it is often seen as a symbol of willpower. This makes the eagle tattoo an excellent choice for anyone who takes pride in having willpower or even those who want more of it so they can quit their bad habits. You will often see people who are leaders in recovery programs get their eagle tattoos for this reason.
Similarly, the eagle tattoo can represent fearlessness. No one is completely without fear, but those who take pride in going for what they want regardless of the obstacles are great fits for the eagle tattoo. In many cases people who use this meaning will write the word or a synonym of fearlessness above or below the eagle design to make it clear why they have that tat on their bodies.
Yet another very commonly used eagle tattoo meaning is intelligence. This is actually a meaning that you can use with a lot of bird tattoos, but it is a bit more obvious with the eagle because most people know that it is a very smart bird. The one downside of this meaning is that it is tough to make it obvious what the eagle represents, but some people think of that as a good thing since they can keep the meaning to themselves.
Other Eagle Tattoo Meanings
The eagle is used very commonly as a symbol of the legion in Ancient Roman civilization. The eagle symbol is known as the Aquila and prominently represents the standard to which any Roman legion must follow. Their strict code of conduct, portrayed by a bronze or golden eagle, indicates incredibly dedication, discipline, respect, and honor.
In Native American and aboriginal mythology all over North America, the eagle is a symbol of the gods in various indigenous cultures. The eagle is ubiquitously viewed as a messenger sent to humanity by the gods and a reminder of the deities’ majesty. The eagle is used in works of art and costumes made for pow wow dancing in order to form a deeper connection to the creator. Indigenous eagle tattoo designs may include a man or woman wearing an eagle costume or a human with the wings or other features of an eagle.
In Celtic mythology, there are several types of eagles that have made their way into centuries-old legends because of their ability to fly high in the air and hunt quick game. The Celts believed that the eagle was one of the oldest creatures on the planet and revered it for its survival skills. The white-tailed eagle and sea eagle are most frequently found in Ireland and Scotland and are subject to this mythology. The bird may be pictured with Celtic symbols like Celtic knots and crosses.
The golden eagle is another very common species of eagle but is not associated with the United States despite being found throughout North America as well as Eurasia. They are often associated with ancient human culture because of their use in falconry. The golden eagles are excellent birds to train for hunting and were used mostly in Asia for this purpose. The golden eagle is a relatively common bird in the East and is recognized easily by its golden and copper plumage. Its curved beak is a deadly weapon that hooks into its prey, making it an incredibly effective hunter and killer. Its ability to provide for its young makes it a symbol of survival as well as loyalty and family.
The golden eagle is a symbol of majesty and hunting prowess throughout the world, serving as an icon in flags and coats of arms globally. In fact, the bird is the national animal of five countries; Albania, Germany, Austria, Mexico, and Kazakhstan. When utilized in a tattoo design, the golden eagle can be representative of one’s heritage or nation of birth. In mythology, the golden eagle is a symbol of victory as well as the glory of the gods. In Ancient Greece, the bird was a manifestation of Zeus and his power as an omnipotent deity. The eagle may be depicted with Zeus or with heavenly or celestial imagery.
Strength and power are two meanings that can easily be associated with the eagle, though many people don’t realize that this particular bird symbolizes those meanings. It’s worth pointing out that there are hundreds of symbols of strength and power, so if you do use these meanings you might want to create your design in a way that makes them a bit more obvious. Of course, if you want to keep those meanings to yourself, you can design the eagle any way that you want to.
Eagle Tattoo Designs and Placement
Eagle tattoos are often quite large. The wings are usually out wide and the face is very detailed. It’s not uncommon at all to see eagle tattoos that cover people’s backs or even wrap around their shoulders. You don’t necessarily have to get a large eagle tattoo, but that is usually how people get them.
Traditional-style eagle tattoos are a great design idea because the outlining and detailing of the “Old School” style highlights the full plumage and dimensional coloring of the bird. The eagle is most often depicted in flight with its wingspan outspread or in the midst of catching its prey, with its talons ready to strike. The tattoo accentuates the regality of the bird as well as its ferocity. Black and grey can be used rather than color to incorporate the pattern of the bird’s feathers in a more graphic way so that it appears stylized rather than animated or traditional. This introduces an artistic appeal to the piece as well as a tribal-like element.
Tribal eagle tattoos work well with the bird because the distinct shape of the hooked beak and curved head. The eagle can be composed of one fluid thick, black line to create a design with a smooth flow. Multiple one-dimensional thick, black pieces, shapes, and lines can be used to incorporate a Native American artistic style to the tribal design.
Placement can be pretty tricky with eagle tattoos, especially those that are quite large. For example, eagle tattoos that are made into sleeves need to wrap around the arm in a way so that the eagle still stands out, which is pretty tricky. The easiest ones to place are those that are designed to fit right square in the middle of the back, but even those ones can be tricky since you need to make sure the wings fit equally well on both sides of the back. For these reasons, we highly recommend working with a tattoo artist who has experience making large animal tattoos.
Another thing to think about when designing an eagle tattoo is whether it will be by itself in the design or not. It seems like about have of the eagle tattoos out there have other images included in the designs to help make the meaning(s) that much more obvious to outside observers. These tattoos usually go through quite a few drafts before they are perfect since you have to make sure that the eagle fits correctly and that the other images in the tattoo don’t take too much focus away from the bird.
Is the Eagle Tattoo Right for You?
Since there are so many eagle tattoo meanings, this is one of those tats that can work for a lot of people. We don’t recommend getting one simply because you like the look of the eagle, but if you found that one or more of the meanings mentioned above make sense for you, then this could be the perfect tat for you.
It is important to keep in mind that eagle tattoos are often quite expensive, especially if you want to include a lot of detail in your eagle’s face and body. You should prepare to spend a bit more money on an eagle tattoo than most others. If you can’t afford the one you want, we highly recommend waiting until you can rather than getting a design that you’re less happy with.
Like most other bird tattoos, people who get eagle tattoos rarely regret getting them because there are so many great meanings attached to them and they seem to universally be seen as some of the most attractive bird tattoos out there. If you love the eagle and it holds meanings that are close to your heart, then you can be pretty sure that you will always be proud to have yours inked on your skin.