Feeding birds lets you deepen your connection to nature without much effort. This is likely a big factor for why nearly half of U.S. households fill bird feeders.

But if you’ve only just joined the bird feeding frenzy, you may be wondering: how do birds find new feeders and how long does it take before they discover a new dining addition? For an answer to these questions, it can help to get a bird’s eye perspective on things.

A bird’s eye view

Have you ever noticed a robin hopping around your lawn? What about a woodpecker clinging to the side of a tree, or a bunch of birds chattering in a cluster of bushes? These three sights are just a few of the ways you may see birds foraging for food in your neighborhood. Depending on the species and the time of year, a sizable portion of a bird’s day is spent searching for food, whether they favor insects, worms, seeds, grains, or fruit. But how do they find these tasty snacks?

Birds almost exclusively find food by sight. With almost no sense of smell, birds rely on their keen senses of sight and sound to locate food sources. So, if a bird catches sight of a feeder containing a familiar food source, they will likely stop for a bite to eat. Birds can even develop the ability to recognize feeders as food sources, tracking them down just as we might track down a restaurant to grab dinner. And, while sound doesn’t always come in handy when finding food, it can lead birds to moving water where they can get a drink.

Why can’t they find my feeder?

Birds are hard-wired food scouts. So if you’re new to filling feeders and haven’t gotten any visitors yet, don’t worry. If you’ve seen birds in your neighborhood, it’s only a matter of time before they will discover the new dining establishment you’ve set up. While some bird feeders will see their first visitors within a few hours, it is not uncommon to have to wait days or even weeks for your neighborhood birds to find your feeder.

Waiting for a sight of these beautiful creatures at your feeder can be hard though, so here are some simple tips to attract the birds and keep them coming back time and time again.

  • Spread seeds throughout your yard

By tossing seeds around your yard and feeder, you may be able to catch the eyes of a bird that wanders through your property. With birds relying primarily on sight for finding food, birdseed in the yard is a key indicator of a nearby food source and may result in a bird simply happening upon your feeder as it scours for more seeds.

  • Fill those bird feeders year-round

There’s no such thing as the wrong season to set out feeders. Birds are always on the move, whether they’re fueling up for migration, feeding their young, or just trying to survive a cold winter. Different species show up at different times of the year, so as they come and go from your areas, you’ll see quite a variety over the course of the year.

  • Include a water source for the birds

If birds are slow to notice your feeder, introduce something they need, like water. Birds use water for drinking and bathing year-round. Look for a water element that features movement, like a fountain, as it will emulate the trickling of a brook, an attractive sound for many birds.

  • Fill your feeder with high-quality bites

When it comes to filling your feeder, high-energy bits will get bird attention. A bird food mix that has a variety of seeds, nuts, grains and dried fruit always draws a crowd. For a crowd pleaser try Lyric Fruit & Nut High Energy Mix, a mix that’s free of fillers (like red millet and milo) and packed with high-quality ingredients like black-oil sunflower seed, peanut pieces (along with other nuts) and fruit.

While a normal water feature may attract birds to your home, a moving water source will sparkle in the sun, catching the eyes of even more birds like this Striped Sparrow. Blightylad-infocus / iStock / Getty Images Plus