According to Inked Magazine, swallow tattoos are often used to mark how many years a sailor has been at sea. Because swallows mate for life, they can be a symbol of love and romance. They are also symbols of rebirth and memorials.
According to Tattoo Easily, swallow tattoos have been popular for many years and are considered old-school and traditional. Historically, swallows were associated with sailors; they were the birds first seen when sailors reached solid land, and swallows were known to fly beside sea vessels. The Greeks and Romans associated the swallow with the goddess of love and believed that swallows carried the souls of the dead to the underworld.