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Hummingbird Tattoos: Meanings, Designs, History, and Photos

Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.

Hummingbird Tattoos: History, Meaning, & Design

Hummingbird Tattoos: History, Meaning, & Design

The hummingbird tattoo is considered to be a mainstream tattoo for women, although some men have them, too. They can be designed in a variety of different ways and portrayed with a host of different symbols and elements, in various colors and sizes. Because of this, they can be tattooed nearly anywhere on the body.

In this article, we will discuss their meanings and various designs. You will have the opportunity to view many photos. We hope that you are able to find ideas and inspiration for your next tattoo.

A flash of harmless lightning, A mist of rainbow dyes, The burnished sunbeams brightening From flower to flower he flies.

— John Banister Tabb

Designs and Meanings

Bird tattoos are becoming more and more popular, and the hummingbird is one of the most popular of all.

Hummingbirds live in the Americas—as far north as Alaska and as far south as Chile—and have been portrayed in Native American legends, literature, folklore, and mythology, where they are often used as a symbol of love. They are also strongly associated with the Aztecs, whose royalty and religious leaders wore feathers and dead hummingbirds around their neck in small bags. The Aztecs believed dead warriors were reincarnated as hummingbirds. Trinidad and Tobago are known as "the land of hummingbirds."

The hummingbird is a unique and graceful bird. It can fly in all directions, even backward and upside down, up to 25 miles per hour, and then stop on a dime. It eats up to fifty times a day just to stay alive, due to its constant burning of energy. The hummingbird is often inked with flowers, for it could not survive without flowers and flowers could not survive without the hummingbird.

As a tattoo, the hummingbird design is a head-turner. Beautiful tattoo designs like this are sure to draw attention, just as the hummingbird does in real life.

Because the hummingbird is so small, it has to work hard to survive. A tattoo of a hummingbird can represent this difficulty and could be meaningful to a person who has been through a lot in life. Many people can relate to this and the hummingbird has become a symbol of the strength it takes to rise above trouble and hardship. Yes, it does represent going through hard times, but it stands for surpassing them. It can represent someone that lives life to the fullest and loves life and every breath. We are often told to enjoy every moment, but do we live that way? The hummingbird tattoo can remind you of that.

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, (1940) by Frida Kahlo

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, (1940) by Frida Kahlo

The hummingbird in flight is a water-spark, an incandescent drip of American fire.

— Pablo Neruda

Meanings

Although the hummingbird tattoo often represents overcoming difficult times, it also has many other meanings, including love, joy, hope, life, and charm, and to many different cultures and people, the hummingbird is a symbol of peace.

One of the main characteristics of the hummingbird is how they are constantly on the go, going so fast they hum. This tattoo can represent energy and vigor, hard work, and unfailing effort. You may be a person that strives to do a good job and get things done. Any one of these meanings can be well represented by the hummingbird tattoo.

A beautiful hummingbird may appear for a few seconds, making us feel lucky; but if we leave food out for them, and they feel safe and unthreatened, they can become regular visitors. With this association, hummingbirds could be designed with doves or other symbols of peace. The hummingbird also represents care, attraction, and happiness, and people in relationships often get twin tattoos of hummingbirds—matching tattoos or two hummingbirds to represent their relationship. Some get a name on the tattoo, their partner's or a loved one's.

This tattoo can also represent freedom. Although the hummingbird is often associated with attraction and affection, it is a lone traveler. Hummingbirds are independent birds that spend most of their time alone. The hummingbird tattoo can symbolize that independent freedom.

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.

— Langston Hughes

Designs and Styles

The hummingbird can be a creative design to work with, with many color options and usually accompanied by flowers, clouds, rainbows, butterflies, dragonflies, and plants.

As far as the body location of such tattoos, it really depends on the size. The hummingbird itself can be altered in a few different ways: short or long tail feathers, wings outstretched or tucked in long or short beak. Then, of course, it can be inked in a variety of different colors. Some colors may be very vibrant, while others may be more realistic with natural colors.

A small hummingbird tattoo can fit in all kinds of different places on the body: neck, stomach, ankle, upper chest, or behind an ear. For larger designs, the back, shoulders, lower back, sides, and upper back work well.

Before you choose a hummingbird design, look at many photos and think about everything you can do to personalize your tattoo. Be creative and have fun.

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.

— William Blake

Before You Tattoo

Whether or not the hummingbird tattoo is for you or not, make sure you research all possible designs, styles, and meanings. You want to make sure that you know what it represents. Do not rush to get a tattoo. Take your time and make sure you choose a design that you are confident with. People that rush to get a tattoo usually end up with something that they don't like later on. If you take your time and look at all the different styles and designs, you will be much happier with your selection. Be sure to check out other styles and designs in the links below. Thanks for visiting.

"When you find you can go neither backward or forward, when you discover that you are no longer able to stand, sit or lie down, when your children have died of malnutrition and your aged parents have been sent to the poorhouse or the gas chamber, when you realize that you can neither write nor not write, when you are convinced that all the exits are blocked, either you take to believing in miracles or you stand still like the hummingbird."

—Henry Miller

© 2012 Richard Ricky Hale

Comments

Powers on November 29, 2019:

I have spent a considerable amount of time in places where you don't buy tattoos you earn them. And i can say without a doubt that the hummingbird can be considered one of the most dangerous tattoos a person can get. In Aztec mythology the hummingbird is representative of the god of war. I don't know exactly the requisite but I have lived with the most ruthless killers for more than a decade in California's maximum security prisons and I have yet to see a single southsider sporting one... so unless you're a contract killer for the eme I would be careful before putting this one on.

Candice Ramos on September 27, 2019:

I have a hummingbird tattoo that represents my grandma because we would watch them together out the window when she was dying. I also got it around 4 flowers for my kids and a half bud meaning the child I lost. I know my grandma still comes around in hummingbird form. So my tattoo means motherhood and her watching over my kids

anonymous on March 30, 2019:

I come from an old school family. A hummingbird visit always meant that a loved one that has passed on is coming back for a visit.

D'Wayne on March 24, 2019:

Thank you for the article and images. I'm in the process of selecting a style and placement of a hummingbird tattoo in remembrance of my recently departed mother. This will help in my decision making and research.

alfi on May 24, 2018:

i just have my humming bird tattoo and i love it..not knowing of the meaning..i was just thinking of my two kids the moment i choose the design..but when i read the meaning it amaze me coz it suits with my personality and perception of life..independent and living life as if there is no tomorrow in a positive way..life is so colorful :)

Niamh on April 20, 2018:

Fascinating article. I am currently planning a hummingbird tattoo in memory of my dad. We happened to see one when on vacation in Orlando, fabulous for us as we don't have them in Ireland. Trying to decide where on my body to get it done though it proving challenging as I have some already.

Charez on February 10, 2017:

Hi! Very interesting article.. yeah, we've got our first hummingbird clavicle tattoo with my best friend Jean. And I never realised that the hummingbird was so popular tattoo..

candie on April 30, 2015:

The humming birds are my favorite . Remind me of my now departed adopted Grandparents ... Always say hello to them every time a hummingbird comes by

they r few n far between here in Albuquerque, NM, so when i see them is just smile ... my next tat will b 3 D hummingbird bright n colorful.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on February 12, 2014:

Little Bird, what a great comment! I love this deep meaning in your tattoo. To me, symbolism is so rich and meaningful. If you ever find the time, come by and post a picture. I'd love to see your backpiece!! Thanks for taking the time to share!

Little Bird on February 03, 2014:

Thank-you for the pictures and symbolism hisory. I have a complete backpiece, done in different stages by separate artists. On my left shoulder to mid- back is a peacock. All along my left side to lower back are flowers;roses, orchids, cherry blossoms. This was all done years ago in black w/ single needle joint-style rig. Right side to mid-back is a awesome dragon, mostly black and gray; with only a hint of red. I was born in the year of the dragon, and have always loved flowers and peacocks (male) because of their exotic beauty and uniqueness. I am a type four on the Eanneagram. The archtypes are the Romantic, Individualist, Mystic. Type four personality's love being unique and seen as unique. They love beuatiful objects and surroundings. They are deeply intuitive and sensitive. Interestingly my numerology life number is 5. The main charecteristic of 5's is to have a sense of freedom. The Hummingbird is my spirit totem/winged one' and all the symbolism resonates with me. Type 4's too are known to take hardship and transform it, or use it for a tool for transformation. These last four years I have suffered from a systemic auto-immune disease that has scarred me pysically and even to my soul. I am now 61 yrs of age, and felt done w/ or complete with the tatoo's I have. (low-back is a lotus surrounded w/ writing "The beloved loves me with an everlasting love" But these four years in the "desert" is calling me to put the hummingbird on my skin to symbolize enduring strength for this most difficult of life's trials. A new dawn is coming.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on October 12, 2013:

Acaetnna, thanks for taking the time to comment. That's what I teach. I know some will never get inked or ever considered it, but the art and meaning make them special. Hummingbird tattoos are always colorful and very beautiful.

acaetnna from Guildford on October 07, 2013:

These are amazing, I so appreciate the artistry here. I would never have a tattoo but I do appreciate their beauty, well these particular designs anyway.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on October 03, 2013:

Dave, thanks for sharing and a great question. Personally, I see nothing wrong with a man wearing the hummingbird. The symbolic value of this idea is much more meaningful in this manner. I've seen dozens of hummingbirds worn by men, all within a theme or with other symbols. From those who I know, I see no man judging this tattoo, at least none of those that know tattoo symbolism. The symbols portrayed matter and your color theme. I see nothing wrong with this. People always judge, but carrying such a meaning, tell them what it represents and I'm pretty sure they'll think twice before they say something again Dave.

Dave h. on October 03, 2013:

I have a design idea for a hummingbird/rose tattoo as a symbol of my love and struggles my fiancé and I have been thru. My question is? How would something like this be taken with a man having it?

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 05, 2013:

Thanks for the comment Peggy! I also find it interesting that every tattoo has or holds special meanings. I can understand, tattoos are not for everyone. Yes, tattoos are very popular and that upstart was due to the Navy, Army, and the military. Thanks again!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 05, 2013:

Interesting learning about the meaning of hummingbird tattoos. I would never personally get a tattoo but it seems to be more popular than ever today. Back when I was a youngster people in the Navy seemed predisposed to getting tattoos. My brother was one of them!

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 04, 2013:

Lisa, LOL. How could I not love your beautiful poetry:) Thanks for the vote and share Lisa, have a great day:)

Lisa J Warner AKA Lisa Luv from Conneticut, USA on September 04, 2013:

WOW!!! AWESOME!!! I am so glad you stopped and visited my writings...What a wonderful hub! I am voting up and sharing!

PS. I wrote a poem about a FANCY HUMMINGBIRD about a woman that reminded me of a fancy humming bird... :) May you have a wonderful day!!!

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 02, 2013:

Kim, thanks for taking the time to visit, comment, vote, and share. I appreciate this special comment. I enjoy teaching others that tattoos are so much more then a marking, it's beautiful art, meaningful art. Most tattoos represent someone or something special to that person. Kim, if it would make you happy, I say go for it. Wanting to have a tattoo for so long, you'll probably feel so much better if you are able to get it done. Once again, thanks so much.

ocfireflies from North Carolina on September 01, 2013:

Dear thelyricwriter,

First, I love your hub name. Second, your hubs are just spectacular. My plan had always been to get a small tattoo of a lightening bug when I turned 40, but when the time came, I chickened out. Also, I am not sure if there is anyone around here who could actually make the tattoo looked like a lightening bug and not just some 'ol beetle. Having read this hub and some of your others, I am feeling like maybe I will get the courage again. Voted Up! Awesome! Shared! I do not know if any of your hubs have received HOTD, but they certainly should.

Best to you,

ocfireflies aka Kim

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 24, 2013:

Sgbrown, thanks for dropping in. I can understand, tattoos are not for everyone, but I appreciate the fact that your willing to learn about them. Grateful as always, see you around and thanks again.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on August 24, 2013:

I am not a tattoo person myself, but I did enjoy learning about the meanings of the hummingbird tattoos. There are some really beautiful designs here. Voting this up and interesting! :)

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 19, 2013:

Faith, thanks for taking the time to drop in and comment. Hummingbird tattoo designs are very beautiful, stunning, and colorful. Hummingbird tattoos make for a great tattoo for any women. The meanings behind the hummingbird tattoo are very symbolic, representing many positive attributes. Thanks for the great comment Faith, hope you have a great one and thanks again!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on August 19, 2013:

What lovely designs, so beautiful and colorful ... the hummingbird design. I missed this one, so I am glad you highlighted it here.

Each one featured is so unique and very beautiful. Wow, those on the feet and up behind the ear, must have hurt, as I know the top of one's feet are so sensitive. However, they are both beautiful designs.

Hummingbirds are one of the most fascinating of His little creatures, to me, with their hovering and beauty and speed!

I really love that they represent someone who has been through a lot in their life but continues to persevere. Awesome

Voted up and across and sharing!

God bless you. In His Love Always, Faith Reaper

Kellee Bowman on February 19, 2013:

sooo bueatiful

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 20, 2012:

Dani, thanks for taking the time to drop by. That style is a great choice because it gives the tattoo the appearance of movement. They are always a popular choice. Plus, you get a great combination of colors and art.

Dani on September 19, 2012:

LOVE Hummingbirds. I am getting ideas for my tatt. The one I like the most of these is the one that looks like its flying or flapping its wings, but all are gorgeous.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 04, 2012:

CC, thanks for dropping by. I have been fortunate with a few of my articles. Appreciate the compliment always CC. You are more then welcome to use it if you wish. Thanks and take care.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on August 22, 2012:

I have to compliment you! I"m doing research on hummingbird facts and symbolism for an upcoming hub, and your hub came up high in Google search results! I'll definitely have to link to it! These pictures are beautiful and I love your explanations. Nice!

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on July 06, 2012:

Moonlake, thanks for dropping by. LOL. I love these. It seemed to skip a generation. Today, they are more popular then ever all across the world. Your right, especially the military.

moonlake from America on June 29, 2012:

The tattoos are beautiful. I don't have tattoos but a couple of my kids and grandkids have tattoos. My dad's generation had tattoo especially if they were in the military. They are sure popular now. Enjoyed your hub.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on June 08, 2012:

Maran, thank you so much for comment! You are very welcome. I am glad you found it useful. Would love to see it when you get it finished. Best wishes.

maran on June 08, 2012:

Have a favourite that is going to adorn my leg :) many thanks for wonderful inspiration and information about these special vibrant and colourful little birds hugs from Sweden

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 23, 2012:

Billips, thanks for dropping by and for the comment. Glad you found it interesting. Hope you have a great day. Take care.

billips from Central Texas on January 22, 2012:

Very interesting hub - the meaning of tattoos is just as interesting as the reasons people get them - the pictures are gorgeous - B.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 20, 2012:

AE, thanks fr stopping by and for the comment. Glad you liked it. They are cool little birds.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 20, 2012:

Bobbi, thanks for coming by and for your time and comment. I say go for it. Many of them are symbolic. You may find one that fits you perfectly.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on January 19, 2012:

The Hummingbird tattoos are beautiful. The Hummingbird is my favorite bird..I feed them all season..I hate to see them leave..Thank you..Another interesting hub...

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on January 19, 2012:

Hi lyricwriter,

I love Hummingbirds, and I wanted a small tattoo of one, years ago, and didn't get one--because my family flipped out about it. However, I might still get one--HA!

Bobbi

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 19, 2012:

Franks, appreciate the visit pal. I want you to get one, I really do. So many designs, meanings, and styles, we could find the "right one" for you. I am confident.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 19, 2012:

Sofs, thank you for your time and comment my friend. Tattoos are not for everyone, but it is great to be appreciated for your hard work and dedication, so thank you very much Sofs. It means a lot to me, it really does.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 19, 2012:

B Malin, thanks for stopping by and for the comment. Glad you like it. I love watching them fly. They are so graceful and charming. Very skilled as well. Thanks so much and take care girl.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 19, 2012:

Gypsy, thanks for taking the time to come by and thanks for the comment. I appreciate you keeping up with all of them and listing your favorites. I am glad you enjoy them and thanks for the continued support.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 19, 2012:

Nell, thanks for coming by and reading this article. Interesting story and you point out a very important fact. So many people rush into the tattoo process and they end up with a tattoo that they like at first, but later regret. It is so important to do your research, take your time, then get your tattoo. If so, chances are, you will get something you like.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on January 19, 2012:

I do not like tattoos, and I am getting one..LOL these are softer.. thanks for a wonderful share yet again :)

Sophie on January 18, 2012:

I do not like tatoos, and I am never ever going to get one.. but your hub is so beautiful .. the designs are amazing. It is a visual treat, that is great compliment coming from me a tattoo hater... and it speaks so highly of your hub!! Have a wonderful day.

b. Malin on January 18, 2012:

You've really outdone yourself now "Lyric" how are you going to top this one? I Love Humming Birds, we get them on the Jersey Shore and they are such a Treat to see...If you Blink, you miss them, they are so fast. Wonderful, wonderful Tattoos!

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on January 18, 2012:

Voted up and what wonderful tattoos. Love hummingbirds. Keeping track of my favorites. Would have to say if I ever went tattoo crazy which I don't plan on doing but if I'd find space for butterflies, hummingbirds, and fairies so far.

Nell Rose from England on January 18, 2012:

Hi, what lovely tattoos! I never realised that the Hummingbird was so popular. I personally love the first foot tattoo you have above, but the others are really nice. I totally agree with you about not rushing to get a tattoo, I remember being on holiday down by the coast, and I was browsing through the pictures in the tattoo parlour, when a young girl came in with her friends, and stood there looking at the pictures, her friends asked, what one are you getting? and she replied, dunno, that one I think! then she went and had it done! I was surprised and a bit bemused, too fast! great hub! cheers nell