Sparrow vs Swallow Tattoo

Sparrow vs Swallow Tattoo featured image
Published on May 10, 2023

Have you been wondering what is the difference between the Sparrow vs Swallow Tattoo? Well worry no longer as we're about to tell you all about these two gorgeous birds who have a little history within the Tattooing World.  

In short, the difference between the two is their symbolic meaning in Tattooing. 

Swallow Tattoos were originally a Sailor Tattoo giving to a crew member afer having travelled a certain number of miles, and the Swallow Tattoo symbolising loyalty, protection, and save return home, due to the Swallows long-distance migration, flying thousands of miles between their breeding grounds.

Where as Sparrow Tattoos have a different symbolic meaning, including loyalty and commitment as Sparrows are usually monogamous birds staying with one partner for the security of raising chicks.

So let's take a closer look at the difference between these two tiny birdies. 

Noteworthy Facts About Swallow Tattoos

The Swallow Tattoo is a classic symbol of enduring love, with sailors being the pioneers of the Swallow Tattoo trend throughout the World Wars.

A Sailor with a swallow tattoo believed he or she would always return home safely to start a new life with their loved ones. This was due to the fact that swallows are migratory creatures that return to the same location year after year to seek new beginnings.

Swallows are also a good indicator for sailors that they are nearing land because when not migrating, Swallows rarely venture far from their nests.

It was once believed that a Swallow would carry the soul of a sailor to paradise when he passed away at sea or that a Swallow with a knife in its chest was a way for sailors to memorialize the loss of friends. 

Facts About Swallow Tattoos


One or Two Swallows in A Swallow Tattoo?

One or Two Swallows

When a sailor returned home after a voyage that had exceeded 5,000 nautical miles he/she would be given a single Swallow Tattoo to log the achievment. 

Then if the same sailor returned to sea and then logged more than 10,000 nautical miles at sea, they would be honored by recieving a second Swallow Tattoo with sources saying they were recieved at the base of each thumb. 

Noteworthy Facts About Sparrow Tattoos

Facts About Sparrow Tattoos

The Black Sparrow is the most common Sparrow species used when getting a Sparrow Tattoo. It is a small bird that is brownish-grey overall and has a short beak. 

Sparrows have unique symbolic significance due to being featured prominently in various works of literature such as in the Bible: Luke 12:6 echoes this sentiment: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?"

People in Ancient Egypt also believed that sparrows were responsible for transporting souls to the afterlife. This concept inspired Stephen King to write The Dark Half, in which a sparrow is an intermediary between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Sparrow Tattoo Design


Sparrow Tattoo vs. Swallow Tattoo: The Comparison

Sparrow Tattoo vs. Swallow Tattoo

Swallow Tattoos, embody themes of travel, change, and the heartfelt notion of always returning home. This is due to Swallows long migrations, travelling thousands of miles from their breeding grounds to a warmer climate.

These agile birds are easily recognized by their forked tails and pointed wings, which were designed by nature for remarkable aerial maneuvers.

Sparrows, on the other hand, are symbols of simplicity and the joy found in everyday life. These small, sturdy birds are known for their resilience and ability to thrive in urban environments.

Unlike the swallow's adventurous lifestyle, sparrows are homebodies, preferring to build their nests close to where they were born.

Their presence reminds us of the strength found in community and the importance of staying grounded.

Telling them apart can be quite straightforward once you know what to look for.

Swallows have a more streamlined body, ideal for their long-distance flights, and often sport a blue-black coat with a white underbelly. 

Sparrows, typically plumper with a shorter tail, wear a more modest brown plumage, blending seamlessly into their surroundings.

As we explore these differences further, consider which aspects of their symbolism and appearance resonate more with you. 

Where to place your Sparrow or Swallow tattoo? 

So you’ve decided between a Sparrow vs Swallow tattoo is right for you, thats great! Now, one question remains, just where exactly should I put my future little birdie tattoo? Lets dive in!

When deciding where to place a swallow or sparrow tattoo, considering both the aesthetic appeal and the symbolic meaning behind its positioning as it can add an extra layer of personal significance to your tattoo.

Swallow Tattoos

Traditionally, sailors would get swallow tattoos on their chest or hands. The chest placement was seen as a way to keep the bird close to the heart, symbolizing love and a safe return home.

Hand tattoos, particularly on the forearms, signified a sailor's experience and skill set, with each swallow representing a significant milestone in nautical miles traveled.

Today, swallow tattoos have found new homes on various parts of the body, each with its own meaning. For instance:

Wrist or Ankle: A swallow tattoo here can symbolize freedom and the journey of life, as these areas allow for the bird to be in constant 'motion' with your movements.

Neck or Behind the Ear: This placement might represent listening to your inner voice or following your heart, aligning with the swallow's symbolism of intuition and guidance.

Sparrow Tattoos

Sparrow tattoos, on the other hand, are often associated with loyalty, family, and home. Their placement can carry significant meaning:

Chest or Over the Heart: Similar to swallows, a sparrow tattoo near the heart emphasizes love, devotion, and the importance of staying true to one's roots.

Shoulders or Upper Arm: These locations can signify strength, resilience, and the ability to carry one's burdens with grace, reflecting the sparrow's enduring nature.

Both swallow and sparrow tattoos are versatile in terms of size and detail, allowing for flexibility in their placement. Smaller, more minimalist designs can be placed on smaller areas like the wrist, ankle, or behind the ear, making for a subtle yet meaningful tattoo. Larger, more intricate designs may find a perfect canvas on the back, chest, or arms, where the details of the bird's feathers and flight can be fully appreciated.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does a swallow and sparrow tattoo mean?

Both swallow and sparrow tattoos are meant to beautify the body. However, a swallow-flying sparrow tattoo oftentimes means that the bearer's life would be preserved during and after sailing.

2. Is a sparrow and a swallow the same?

Is a sparrow and a swallow the same

No, they are not the same. Sparrows are shorter and stockier; they make nests out of vegetation and consume largely seeds, whereas swallows are longer and more streamlined, make their nests out of mud, and hunt insects in the air.

3. What does a swallow tattoo signify?

A swallow tattoo meant the wearer had completed a voyage and was now safe returning home. But, it can also be a sign that the wearer has been incarcerated.

4. What does a swallow tattoo mean in the Bible?

The biblical symbolism of the Swallow is that of the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus. They bloom around the time of Jesus' resurrection in the spring.

Conclusion - Sparrow vs. Swallow Tattoo

So ends the insighful journey into the difference between the Sparrow and Swallow Tattoo. We hope we thought you something new about these two wonderful bird specimens. And if you want to learn more about Tattoo Meanings, you can check out our 'What Does a Dragon Tattoo Mean' or you can dive into other sailor Tattoos in our best of Anchor Tattoos.

To avoid being disappointed at a later time in life, you should always conduct extensive research into the meaning of the tattoo design. In addition to this, make sure you are aware of the aftercare instructions to keep your skin and tattoo healthy.

Ryan S. Mills
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