What comes to mind when you think of an eagle?
They are magnificent creatures to behold.
Though there are many types of eagles, this bird of prey is most commonly portrayed in pop culture as the bald eagle.
With thick, strong-looking legs, menacing talons, a sharp look in their eyes and a wingspan over two meters wide, if you’ve ever had an encounter with an eagle you won’t soon forget it.
Eagles exist on every continent but Antarctica, so there are a lot of fables about these majestic birds from all over the world.
It’s no surprise then, that eagles are an extremely popular tattoo symbol.
Eagles have been portrayed in tattoos since the beginning of the art form.
But what do eagle tattoos mean, and why does a person choose to get an eagle tattoo?
Let’s go over eagle tattoos in detail.
What do they symbolize, and what is an ideal placement for an eagle tattoo?
The eagle has become a popular symbol for many empires, countries, and spiritual ideas, but every culture seems to have similar ideas about the eagle and its symbolism.
In a story from the Native American tribe known as the Delaware people, we can see the origins of today’s beliefs about Eagles.
The Delaware peoples believed that if a young warrior, or brave, could pluck a feather from a live eagle’s tail, he would be blessed with good luck and courage by adorning himself with the feather.
There is a magical aura around eagle feathers in most Native American tribes, and the idea is that they should be earned.
To be presented with an eagle feathered headdress is a great honor not to be taken lightly.
In this particular tale, our protagonist is a young, reckless man who wants to become a great warrior while playing by his own rules.
He hunts a large wolf and carries the wolf’s body to a high perch where eagles are known to fly by.
Dangling the bait, he waits in a cave, ready to capture his first Eagle feather.
When the first eagle flies by, he decides that it is too small and drives it away from the perch.
As another eagle comes by, and another and another, he finds fault with each of them.
He wants the perfect eagle feather to represent the high opinion he has of himself.
Eventually, a very large eagle lands on the perch.
This eagle is even larger than the boy himself, and its feathers are blood red.
Surpassing the meat, the giant eagle carries our young warrior in his giant talons and flies him to its nest.
The eagle tells the boy that he has been too arrogant, he was not satisfied with the eagles that were sent to him.
He will now be punished for his greed as he waits for the eagles young to grow large enough to carry him back to the perch.
When the young are finally ready and the boy has had plenty of time to contemplate his greediness, the large eagle supervises as the young ones carry him back.
There, he finds several eagle feathers that he can take back to his village.
The moral of the story is about accepting gifts that are given to you.
If you continue to hold out for something you see as “perfect,” the universe will stop being generous with you.
Eagles in Pop Culture
When we think of eagles as determined, noble, and powerful, it is often because we have seen them portrayed that way in pop culture.
Many books, movies, and video games use the eagle as a symbol.
In the Harry Potter books and movies, students are sorted into different magical “houses” based on their personalities and academic strengths.
The task of sorting students is given to a magical, talking sorting hat.
When someone first discovers the Harry Potter series, they’re often keen to play sorting hat themselves.
The house represented by an eagle is the house of Ravenclaw.
Students in Ravenclaw are known to prioritize academic intelligence above everything else.
Notable characters from the house include Cho Chang, Marcus Belby, and Myrtle Warren.
“Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
if you’ve a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind.”
-Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
The Philadelphia Eagles
This football team made their debut in October of 1933.
They had formed after Philadelphia’s Frankford Yellow Jackets went bankrupt in 1926.
After acquiring the assets for the team, the new owners re-invented it as The Philadelphia Eagles.
The name was a symbol of hope after the Great Depression.
It was directly inspired by President Roosevelt’s plan for economic recovery, called Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The National Recovery Act was symbolized by a blue eagle, and the original team colors reflected that.
Many of the eagle tattoos you’ll see in America are inspired by people’s love of the game, and pride for their favorite football team.
Eagles, often referred to as the Eagles, wrote some of the most famous songs of all time.
Despite reaching their peak in the 1970’s, they continue to be featured on soundtracks and covered by modern artists all the time.
Though the band members debate the origin of the song, many of them seem to agree that they came up with it on a peyote & tequila-infused trip to the desert.
One band member says they say Eagles flying overhead.
In any case, the band rose to fame and continues to leave its legacy.
Many people have tattoos of the band’s lyrics, and may incorporate eagle wings into the design.
Wind Beneath My Wings
“I can fly higher than an eagle, for you are the wind beneath my wings.”
This song was sung by Bette Midler for the 1988 movie Beaches, and became an instant classic.
In the song, the singer is someone who stands in the spotlight.
The person they are singing to, however, has always supported them behind the scenes.
The singer thanks the person for being a support and says they couldn’t do what they did without them.
The song is unique in that it celebrates the people who do amazing things without expecting fame or recognition for it.
To this day, the song is often a popular choice at memorial services.
Many people have the lyrics tattooed on themselves as a reminder of a loved one.
Are you the eagle, or the wind beneath someone’s wings?
What Do Eagle Tattoos Mean?
In every culture that mythologizes eagles, they symbolize bravery, power, and the “higher self.”
While the crow is thought to bring messages from the dead, the eagle is the only animal thought to be able to bring messages back.
They are said to be the only creature that can look directly at the sun. Because of their keen eyesight, they are often seen as a symbol of wisdom because they “see all.”
During a Native American ritual if an eagle is spotted, it is seen as a sign that the message was received.
Why Are Eagles the Official Symbol for America?
There are many reasons to get an eagle tattoo, but many people get them as a sign of their American pride.
The Bald Eagle was chosen as the official emblem of America in 1782.
It is one of the 2 Eagle species found in North America and was thought to be unique to the area at the time.
It is considered an American bird for that reason, and because of its long life and high flying abilities.
The image of an Eagle soaring high in the sky, gliding on its grand wings has become a symbol of freedom.
Sailor Jerry frequently gave people Eagle tattoos as a symbol of his ideal America.
He was a very patriotic man and had strong opinions about what the country needed to do to maintain its glory.
Common Themes in Eagle Tattoos
Are you starting to get some ideas for your eagle ink?
Still need a little more inspo?
We’ve searched the web for our favorite eagle tattoos, and here are some themes we think you’ll like.
Eagles & Other Zoomorphic Tattoos
Zoomorphism is the act of giving certain animal characteristics to something else.
For example, a claw foot bathtub is a zoomorphic image.
Some people give themselves eagle wings with their eagle tattoo, rather than having the full eagle itself.
Predatory animals can sometimes be combined to create the ultimate representation of power.
These tattoos can represent wanting a combination of powerful traits or wanting to infuse your human body with the strength and nobility of an eagle.
Wolf & Eagle Tattoos
Lion & Eagle Tattoos
Snake & Eagle Tattoos
This is a classic design that looks great as an old school eagle tattoo, but can also be redesigned 100 ways.
Because an eagle represents nobility and a snake represents our more basic urges, this tattoo often represents an inner conflict.
You can’t deny your humanity and the dark temptations therein, but can you rise above?
An Eagle Fighting a Snake
This symbolizes the two sides of yourself, your ‘higher self,’ and your more basic urges; both sides are within you, but which will win the fight?
Eagles & Landscape/Nature Tattoos
Many of today’s young professionals would rather spend their money on an experience than things.
This has inspired a whole generation to get nature tattoos.
In a mountain or forest landscape, an eagle would feel right at home.
This is a nice way to add some life and movement to an otherwise stagnant design.
It also captures the majesty of the great outdoors.
Battle Royale Tattoo
In Jime’s tattoo, a dragon and snake face off with a menacing eagle flying overhead.
This is an example of a battle royale tattoo.
In these tattoos, epic animals from the sky, land, and sometimes sea are locked in an eternal battle for dominance.
As a predatory bird, the eagle often represents the “sky” element of the design.
It is an exciting design, but you need to have a lot of skin real estate to pull it off.
The best battle royales have more than 2 animals, and you’ll want to be able to see the detail of each one.
These make amazing back pieces, or could also work on a torso.
Arrow & Eagle Tattoos
On the great seal for the United States of America, an eagle flies clutching items in its talons.
On one side, it clutches 13 arrows.
In the other, it carries an olive branch.
The 13 arrow tattoos represent the 13 original states, and the olive branch is a traditional peace offering.
Together, the symbol means that America will always strive for peace but be ready for battle.
American Flag and Eagle Tattoos
Because it is the official emblem of the United States, having American iconography and an eagle makes sense in a patriotic tattoo.
Statue of Liberty & Eagle Tattoos
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
-The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus
The Statue of Liberty has long been a symbol for people who seek freedom and refuge in America.
It could be a symbol for someone who has immigrated to the country, or who’s family started a new life there.
Flying Eagle Tattoo
These tattoos represent freedom and protection.
Eagle Eyes Tattoo
An eagle eye tattoo represents the ability to see clearly, maybe even act as a visionary.
Screaming Eagle Tattoos
Eagle Talons Tattoo
A popular symbol on coats of armour, the eagle talon represents protection from evil forces.
Celebrities with Eagle Tattoos
Eagle tattoos are such a classic design, it’s probably one of the most common requests in any shop.
Because of their spiritual connotations and ties to American patriotism, the eagle is a common choice in the Western world.
Many of today’s tatted up celebrities see eagle tattoos as an essential piece to their collection.
Here are a few of our favorite eagle tattoos from Tinseltown.
Justin Bieber Eagle Tattoo
Justin is virtually covered in tattoos at this point.
Some of his tatts are references to albums, but many are symbolic and religious images.
The young pop star has two eagle tattoos, onestretched out across his stomach, and one on his upper left bicep.
Bieber hasn’t spoken directly to the meaning behind these tattoos.
The one on his stomach is below script that says “son of God,” so it may have a spiritual significance.
He’s been very outspoken about his Christian religious beliefs since the beginning of his career.
At first, this was one of Bieber’s larger tattoos.
He has since had the negative space around it filled in.
Bieber says he felt that, without the surrounding art, the eagle looked like a mustache on his torso.
The eagle on Bieber’s upper left shoulder sits just above a tiger tattoo.
The tiger and the eagle are both classic predatory animals in the tattoo world.
This combination could mean wanting a balance between being grounded/soaring as high as possible.
It may also mean Bieber wants to dominate many arenas in his life.
Adam Levine Eagle Tattoo
Another singer/sex symbol with an affection for tattoos, Adam Levine has an eagle with almost the same placement as Justin’s.
His is slightly higher, framing his pecks.
While this “underboob” placement is often associated with breasts, it can also highlight a flat muscular torso very attractively.
Adam’s eagle sits just above the lettering tattoo that says “California.”
Like Bieber’s tattoo, his eagle looks like it is about to swoop down to earth.
Levine is a pretty confident guy, so this tattoo could easily represent his dominance over the city of dreams.
In basic tattoo terms, the eagle often represents courage.
Amy Winehouse Eagle Tattoo
Most of Amy’s tattoos resemble prison tattoos- which are often done by amateurs without the smooth shading of a modern design.
The tattoos suited her rough and tumble aesthetic, and she had an assortment.
Each of Amy’s tattoos have a personal meaning, often tied to the people she loves or her sense of self.
Amy’s eagle tattoo appears in the middle of her upper back.
It depicts an Egyptian ankh tattoo with eagle wings on either side.
In Egyptian mythology, the ankh represented an eternal life force, while eagles represented an ideal leader.
Together, it seems Amy was trying to empower herself with a meaningful image.
Paris Jackson Eagle Tattoo
Paris Jackson, the late Michael Jackson’s daughter, has at least 16 tattoos.
Many of them are dedicated to her father, but she also has tattoos to represent her religious beliefs.
The eagle on her left ankle is of an eagle, done in a tribal style.
The eagle was drawn up by Stephanie Big Eagle, who was selling tattoo designs to raise money for the Standing Rock Reservation in North and South Dakota.
The funds were needed during a battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Jackson got the tattoo to show her support.
Keith Urban Eagle Tattoo
The cool thing about eagle tattoos is they can appeal to many types of people.
From pop star Justin Bieber, to the soulful Amy Winehouse, and all the way over to country boy Keith Urban.
The singer-songwriter may not be as tatted up as others, but he has 7 small pieces and isn’t shy to talk about them.
As for the eagle tattoo on his right shoulder blade, it was a birthday gift he gave himself during his single years.
The New Zealand born artist had been spending a lot of time in America and was feeling free and breezy.
The eagle perfectly summed up that feeling and era of his life, so he got the design without hesitation.
Lewis Hamilton Eagle Tattoo
It isn’t just entertainers getting eagle tattoos.
Lewis Hamilton, a British Formula One racer, has a large eagle tattooed on his neck.
Like most people with neck tattoos, he was no stranger to ink before receiving this one.
Bang Bang is known for tattooing celebrity clients, including Rihanna, who Hamilton has been rumored to be dating.
When the racer posted about his new ink on Instagram, he explained the meaning behind it:
“My eagle represents a visionary, I’m a seeker and I’m willing to push the limits of self-discovery and personal freedom,” he says.
“The eagle is a born leader and may become impatient with those who cannot fly as high or as fast.”
For someone known to blast through obstacles at break-neck speeds, the design makes sense.
Eagle Tattoo Designs
Eagles can mean slightly different things to different people, but overall they symbolize a sense of courage and nobility.
Everyone could use a little eagle energy in their lives.
Still stuck on ideas? Check out our eagle tattoo gallery for some inspiration!
Black & Grey Eagle Tattoos
Black and grey is the best medium when you want a tattoo to look serious and poignant.
Black and grey can bring out the details in an epic design, and make for a powerful image.
If your eagle tattoo is a sign of pride, or in memory of someone, this is likely the best medium.
New School Eagle Tattoos
If you want to represent a proud eagle without taking yourself too seriously, New School tattoos have playful dynamic designs that will give your bird some life.
These are cartoonish designs best suited to more joyful tattoos.
One Line Eagle Tattoos
If you like to keep it simple, consider a minimalist eagle tattoo.
In a one-line design, the subject matter is “readable” from across the room, unlike some more complex tattoos.
This is well suited to someone who is a no-nonsense, cut to the chase type.
American Traditional Eagle Tattoos
American traditional tattoos and eagles go together like apple pie and ice cream.
It’s just a classic, and it’s always going to look great.
No guesswork is required here.
If you want a tattoo that looks like a tattoo, go with American traditional.
Black-work Eagle Tattoos
If you like the impact and bold lines of an American traditional tattoo, but aren’t into color, consider a black-work design.
Black-work tattoos feature bold outlines and large sections of highly saturated black, and they’re stunning when done properly.
Realistic Eagle Tattoos
If you want to capture the intimidating majesty of an eagle’s face, get a realistic portrait tattoo.
Realistic eagle tattoos vibrate with the intensity of the bird itself.
Japanese Eagle Tattoos
As in other areas of the world, ancient Japanese peoples saw the eagle as a godly bird and auspicious omen.
The eagle looks stunning in the Japanese tattoo style, and makes for a show stopping piece.
Graphic Eagle Tattoos
Graphic tattoos are a bold, modern design with artistic flair.
If you want something prideful like the eagle, but don’t identify with the machismo of classic designs, this may be a good choice.
These graphic designs have plenty of impact, but their sketchbook style softens the predatory vibe.
Watercolor Eagle Tattoos
Watercolor tattoos are a popular way to portray any animal, especially birds.
The movement of an eagle can be captured perfectly in this vivid, splashy style.
Tribal Eagle Tattoos
Similar to one line tattoos, tribal tattoos utilize negative space to tell their story.
These bold designs have a masculine feeling, but can be done with more curvaceous lines for a more feminine feel.
Haida Eagle Tattoos
Haida art is often lumped in as “Native American Art,” but it is specific to the Haida tribe.
The Haida peoples originated along Canada’s West Coast.
These designs are sacred, characterized by their bold red and black lines, and clever use of negative space.
In this culture, the eagle represents power, wisdom, and peace.
Consult with a Haida tattoo artist before going ahead with this design.
Celtic Eagle Tattoos
Fine Line Eagle Tattoos
Fine line tattoos are done with fine-tipped tattoo needles, often one rather than a bundle.
The result is more of a pencil-drawn feel, which can capture the grace of an eagle in flight.
Sketchy Eagle Tattoos
Sketch designs have a kind of movement and artistic urgency to them that makes them very appealing.
Like a watercolor design, this will give your eagle tattoo some movement.
Ornamental Eagle Tattoos
In these tattoos, each feather is given an ornate level of detail for a beautiful, almost stained-glass effect.
Neo-traditional Eagle Tattoos
If you love American traditional tattoos for their bold color fills, but want something a little more modern, this can be a great way to have a patriotic eagle that feels of the era.
Neo-traditional tattoo designs have the best of so many tattoo worlds.
Single Needle Eagle Tattoos
A single needle tattoo is a version of a fine line tattoo that will only ever use one needle rather than bundles of “shaders.”
They are a nice, delicate option for people who appreciate subtleties.
Etching tattoos use lines and shading to “carve” an image, much like a wood carving.
This can be a nice effect for living subject matter and natural elements.
Illustrative Eagle Tattoos
If you want something with the high color saturation and comic book feel of a new school tattoo, but want it to feel a little more serious, consider an illustrative design.
Eagles can look especially dynamic in this tattoo style.
Trash Polka Tattoos
Trash polka is an innovative, collage-like style.
Incorporate eagle elements with other meaningful images for something that has maximum impact and a stylish look.
Dot-work Eagle Tattoos
Dot-work or pointillism is an image that is made up of several dots, done with varying degrees of density to create light and shadow.
This artsy technique captures the dreamy majesty of an eagle in flight.
Geometric Eagle Tattoos
For something more abstract, but still readable, a geometric eagle tattoo has a cool futuristic vibe. Go to geometric tattoos for more!
Micro-realist Eagle Tattoos
Using fine needles and careful techniques, a micro realist design backs a lot of artistry into a small space.
If you’re looking for something bold that you can hide for work (or from your parents!)
This is a cool option.
Make sure you find an artist who can walk the walk- this is tricky to pull off!
Contemporary Eagle Tattoos
We love the vibrancy of these contemporary eagle tattoos.
They give you the impression of an eagle and have a high impact without being too fussy.
Eagle Tattoo Ideas
Small Eagle Tattoos
To capture all the details of an eagle in a small tattoo, and have it age well, requires a light touch.
If you want one of these delicate designs, be sure to see an artist who is experienced in small tattoos.
Eagle Sleeve Tattoos
Eagles are an epic bird that deserves an epic design.
If you’ve got skin real estate and have been looking for the perfect sleeve, the eagle has so much to offer between its piercing eyes, great talons, and long, graceful wings.
Large-scale Eagle Tattoos
The best eagle designs are detailed and have a lot of space to spread their wings.
Consider an eagle tattoo for an unforgettable chest or back piece.
Aztec Eagle Tattoos
Polish Eagle Tattoos
German Eagle Tattoos
Philippine Eagle Tattoos
Harpy Eagle Tattoos
Best Placements for Eagle Tattoos
Because of an Eagle’s impressive wingspan, it has become a popular chest piece.
In general, your torso likely has a good amount of real estate for a more intense eagle tattoo.
Most people will place their eagle tattoos on their chest, back, or even ribs.
You may choose a smaller eagle tattoo design if you like, but you should probably get it in a more simplistic style to accommodate the smaller size.
Eagle Tattoos on Wrist
Eagle Tattoos on Forearm
Eagle Tattoos on Arm
Eagle Tattoos on Chest
Eagle Tattoos on Shoulder
Eagle Tattoos on Back
Eagle Tattoos on Hand
Eagle Tattoos on Neck
Eagle Tattoo Artists