The sailors are believed to be one of the first people to popularize sparrow tattoos. Since sparrows stay close to land and don't fly too far, they knew that land was near when they spotted one. For them, this bird was a symbol of good luck.
The ancient Egyptians had a belief that sparrows had the ability to catch the souls of the departed. Similarly, the sailors also linked the sparrow to the end of their journey on the waters. Spotting a sparrow meant that they were about to reach the land, and would soon be united with their loved ones.
The sailors were among the first people to popularize this design and that explains the popularity of the nautical theme. One can have nautical stars and other oceanic symbols along with this design.
Ships and stars can be incorporated in the design. You could have a design that shows the bird hovering over a coastline or diving into the water. The memorial tattoo designs generally show the sparrows holding a banner mentioning the name of the person being memorialized.
Using calligraphy for the name would be a great idea. Another popular design is showing two or three sparrows diving towards the nautical star. This design is symbolic of the freedom to love and be loved in return. You could also use other design elements.
This design has become more popular with girls since the character of Jack Sparrow was played superbly by Johnny Depp in the movie The Pirates of the Caribbean. Several designs have come up since then. Guys could get this tattoo on the back. Another interesting design is that of a sparrow against a rising sun or around the waves of the sea.
Keeping in mind the principles or the values that the sparrow tattoo symbolizes, getting it inked is an excellent idea for those who like bird tattoos. Moreover, there's no dearth of design ideas.