For millennia the eagle has represented empires as a symbol of formidability, prowess, and cunning. Popular in continental European heraldry we see the eagle represented on countless national flags and coats of arms. Regarded as the “King of the Sky” (in contrast to the lion’s title of “King of the Jungle”) the eagle is the kind of awe inspiring animal that has fascinated the human imagination since the dawn of time. As early as 540 BC Cyrus the Great was using the eagle as the symbol on his battle standard. The Ptolemaic rulers of ancient Egypt used the eagle as the seal of their empire. Albania translates to “Land of the Eagles” and Albanian translates simply to eagle. The ancient Romans saw the eagle as a companion animal to Jupiter, the Greek god Zeus was said to shape shift into an eagle, and the Germanic god Odin is often depicted with an eagle perched upon his shoulder. In this article we have compiled one hundred photos of impeccably well done eagle (and a few other birds) tattoos. The images below can serve as inspiration for your next tattoo or can simply expose you to some phenomenal artwork depicting the world’s most fabled avian.
In this image we see the silhouette of an eagle with its wings spread in flight. The wings have a geometric shape that is reminiscent of a wrought iron fence or Gothic architecture. As the wings extend the piece becomes more abstract, leading to the tattered coloration near the tips of the wings.
This is a very traditional depiction of a Thunderbird. A bird of Native American folklore that is said to be a servant to the Great Spirit, responsible for rain fall, and capable of taking human form. Native Americans have described the creature as powerful, intelligent, and wrathful. This tattoo depicts the bird in a stunning black and gray motif where the pronounced black lines are broken up by overlapping line and geometric patterns.
This back piece depicting a bird taking flight is an example of incredible shading throughout the predominantly darkly colored bird. The contrasting colors throughout the tattoo give the piece depth and accentuates the bird’s features.
A beautiful abstract depiction of the wings of a bird leading into a tree trunk. The absence of color is what draws your eyes to the silhouette and leads them to the tree that crawls up the nape of her neck.
A very traditional depiction of a southwestern Thunderbird. The appeal of this piece is its location, the Thunderbird was said to create thunder with a flap of its wings, making the hands an ideal location for a Thunderbird tattoo.
The cage creates the background, the geometric pattern the middle ground, and the eagle is placed in the foreground making it the focal point of this tattoo.
A very simple black profile of an eagle’s head that leads into an abstract series of lines reminiscent of paint running.
Flying Profile with Native American Influences
The title says it all. This is a very simple, yet elegant, side profile of a flying eagle with an ode to Native American art style throughout the body of the bird.
Classic Sailor Style Eagle
This image is a representation of traditional western tattooing, specifically naval tattoos. The eagle wraps his talons around a skull and is embellished with the American flag and the slogan “Freedom is Not Free”.
This tattoo emphasizes placement. Especially advantageous for people with long hair, a tattoo behind the ear can be easily concealed.
A mirrored image of a stalking bird on each shoulder creates symmetry in the piece.
A set of detailed eagle’s wings attached to what I presume is a hour glass. Take note of the line work throughout the wings.
Sketch Book Crow
A crow depicted in a style that simulates a pencil sketch, an example of superb shading.
Eagle with White Ink
Depending on the skin tone of the person being tattooed, white ink can be used to accent a black and grey tattoo so the colors don’t merge into an unidentifiable grey blob.
Stunning Use of Patterns
This is a great example of patterns used throughout the eagle drawing your eye systematically through the entire tattoo. The profile prominently displays one of the eagle’s most recognizable characteristics, its powerful hooked beak. A remarkable example of simple and efficient tattooing.
A wonderful example of tribal style tattooing. A series of shapes creates an outline and the mind completes the image.
Realistic Forearm Wing
A realistic depiction of an eagle’s wing extends the length of their forearm. Notice the subtle shading that imitates the small hairs that comprise every feather.
A solid black depiction of the Thunderbird symbol. Where this tattoo differs from the other representations of Thunderbirds in the list is the placement. The wings of the bird wrap around her forearm creating a banded effect.
The Art of Layering
A clock superimposed over a pyramid creates the foreground of this tattoo while the background shows the silhouette of a flock of birds fleeing the pyramid. Notice how the birds ascend up his arm and not simply away from the tattoo.
Double Headed Eagle
The double headed eagle is a prevalent symbol in heraldry, the two heads are said to represent the North and South or the East and West. Here we see the double headed eagle accented with an eye in the center and a geometric shape above.
Traditional Eagle Outline
Eagles and roses have been popular images for American Navy Sailors for decades. Here we see the eagle as the centerpiece with complimentary roses scattered throughout the piece. It should be noted that this is an outline without shading or coloring.
Bird on a Wire
While the top of the tattoo seems relatively simple, the true beauty is in the ink blot at the base of the pole. We see the ink running down the man’s forearm and text written on the lines. A nice twist on an otherwise basic tattoo.
Surrealism in Flight
The Strength of Eagle’s Wings
Faux Coat of Arms
Eagle vs. Sparrow
Ink Blot Silhouettes
Philadelphia Eagles Throwback
Leaves of Wheat
Birds in Conflict
Native American Style Top View
Less is More
Dream Catcher, Caught
The winds push through the wings of the bird as it carries a dream catcher. The dream catcher is a Native American invention said to filter out negative dreams and allow only positive thoughts to enter the sleeping mind.
Ominous and Abstract
Ink Splatter Robin
Top View Silhouette
Here we see elements of an eagle represented on a totem. Notice the face in the middle of the piece as well as the face at the top of the tattoo with the hooked beak of an eagle protruding from one side. Totems are spiritual objects or sacred beings in Native American culture. They represent the lineage or mythic past of a clan or tribe.
Eagle vs. Snake
Location is Everything
While the representation of the bird is relatively generic the appeal of this tattoo is in its placement. The bird is predominantly pictured on his rib cage but the wings ascend up the wearer’s back and accentuating the lines of his body.
Native Inspired Profile Revisited
Beautiful Tribal Back Piece
Time Flies: The Sequel
Tribal Bottom View
Traditional Tribal Colors
Egyptian Human/Animal Hybrid
Time Flies III
Don’t, Just Don’t
Attacking Eagle Outline
Eagle vs. Snake: The Rematch
An Eagle in Full Color
Full Lower Back Eagle
Eagle Perched on Skull
Traditional Eagle Stomach Piece
Upper Thigh EagleA well done illustration of an eagle swooping down on prey. The wings of the bird wrap around her thigh and follow the lines of her body as they lead toward her lower stomach and buttocks.
Nature Scene in a Maple Leaf
Using an earthy color palette of yellows, reds, and browns this tattoo depicts an eagle swooping down on a rabbit while the maple leaf frames the scene. My only qualm with this tattoo is the fact that when the wearer’s arms are hanging down by his side the tattoo will be upside down.
While the focal point of the tattoo is the traditionally colored and styled eagle the tattoos additional symbols are relevant to its meaning. The shield (not surprisingly) represents protection while the wreath in the eagle’s claw represents peace.
Vibrant Chest Piece
The vivid color palette of this tattoo creates an undeniably attention grabbing piece.
Highly Stylized Chest Piece
A full chest piece depicting an eagle with spread wings is nothing original. However, the distinguishing factor of this tattoo is the patterns in the body of the eagle. In the center we see a shape similar to an Indian mandala.
Eagle Consuming Snakes
Modern Style, Traditional Images
While the images in this tattoo are typically associated with the traditional style, in this piece we see a modern flare on traditional subjects. The tattoo does a great job of exhibiting a level of detail not typically represented in traditional ink.
Traditional Eagle, Non-Traditional Placement
The colors, style, and background are indicative of traditional tattoos. However, the neck placement adds a certain character to this piece that separates it from a similar image on a more traditional body part.
The Cleavage Eagle
Traditional Eagle Stomach Piece
Abstract Water Colors
Eagle and Mountain
This surrealist piece merges mountaintops into the head of an eagle. The careful detail creates a sense of unity and separation as the transition from mountains to eagle are seamless but easily distinguishable.
Ink Splatter in Flight
A Mix of Styles
This tattoo exhibits influences from traditional eagles, heraldry and the artist’s preferences. The eagle’s tongue is sticking out, a nod to heraldry. The embellishments on the tail are reminiscent of Native American art while the wings and head are shaped like a traditional eagle.
While this stencil shows promise it is far cry from a completed tattoo. The eagle is incredibly detailed and the arrows sticking out of the bird’s back are intriguing. However, without any ink laid down this tattoo is still conceptual, albeit a concept with significant potential.
A great example of a hyper-realistic portrait. The detailed coloring in this piece is the defining factor of its quality. While the artwork is incredible, I question why the artist refrained from making the eagle’s talons yellow.
Patriotic Rib Piece
This tattoo has traditional subjects with an updated style. The Arrows are highly detailed and the head of the eagle is almost dragon-like with an extended tongue. A commendable feat as the artist seamlessly merged his modern style with traditional imagery.
Eagle vs. Snake: The Rubber Match
A back of the head tattoo is a bold decision. Once again we see a traditional style portraying an eagle fighting a snake. The tattoo is a little confusing as the two animals are wrapped up and the eagle’s wings point in two different directions. While the use of traditional colors is endearing, I believe the artist was too heavy handed with the black ink and has overpowered the details of the piece.
Snake Wrapped Around Eagle
Traditional Black and Gray
The Owl and The Eagle
Traditional styling and vibrant colors are the common denominators of this woman’s tattoo collection. The tattoos are well done, giving a nod to traditional styling and subjects while retaining a twist of individualism so crucial to the wearer.
Superb placement is the crowning achievement of this tattoo. While The positions of the eagles differ, the lines of the illustration follow the wearer’s back well and create a scene rather than two separate images.
Traditional Black & Grey
A respectable black and grey variation on a traditional eagle tattoo. I’d like to note that the placement is arguably the most traditional place for a tattoo, as the upper arm has been a tattooing placement staple for decades.
The Coupe d’etat of Traditional Chest Pieces
While similar in style and coloration to the other examples of traditionally styled tattoos we have on the list this tattoo sets itself apart through detail. The top row of feathers are embellished and the yellow ridge that runs along the top of the wing has a wave pattern. The roses are colored and shaded creating depth in the flowers. This tattoo is a prime example of the fact that the artist is as important as the style and subject.