Do Wild Birds Recognize the People Who Feed Them?

With warm weather finally making an appearance, you may be spending more time out in the yard watching the birds cheerfully enjoying the bird feeders you have filled for them. Being able to recognize the regular visitors is a big part of the fun. At my feeders there’s a cardinal couple that visits the sunflower seed feeder every morning and evening. There are also young chickadees excitedly going after the safflower blend, and finches enjoying the thistle seed feeder.

While being entertained by the young chickadees one morning, a question popped into my mind that resulted in the research for this post: Do the birds at my feeders recognize me?

Do Birds Recognize the People Who Feed Them?

Black bird being hand fed

Recent studies have shown that birds can recognize humans and may know their voices too. Their research shows that birds recognize humans, their faces, and in some cases our voices. For example, pigeons will get out of the way for specific humans that have previously shooed them away. If you didn’t mind the pigeons and didn’t shoo them away, they learn that they can remain and don’t have to fly off. 

In another study with magpies, they learned that specific humans that have come too close to magpie nests previously may risk getting flown at when they walk by next time. 

With that said, birds remember human kindness and learn to associate you with it, and they don’t forget reliable food and water sources. So, if you are regularly filling your feeders and baths, the birds will use them and learn that you are the one providing them with the food when they see you doing so.

How Do Birds Find Feeders?

Avians rely heavily on a keen sense of hearing and vision to survive. So, they can hear the trickling of water being added to a bird bath, and the sound of seed being poured into a feeder. They also see you doing it from their perches above.

Bird eating at a mosaic glass fly-through bird feeder

There are several ways to help birds find the feeders you set out. The main factors to consider are visibility, cleanliness, and having multiple perches or space for them to rest on as they snack. Remember, birds have a keen sense of sight and hearing and if they can see the feeder, they will recognize it as a meal source.

The key is to place them in an area that is easily visible but still close to foliage, bushes, or trees. This ensures that the feeder is visible but also provides birds with some natural protection from predators as well. Another way to provide wild birds with safety from the elements and predators is to hang birdhouses for them to use as shelter.

Regularly cleaning feeders and bird baths with soap and water and allowing them to dry before refilling them is important. This helps prevent the spread of bird diseases and also helps prevent the food from getting moldy and sickening the birds.

When introducing a new feeder to the yard, scattering some seed on the ground near the feeder will also help. Additionally, birds love drinking water. If you place a fountain or a bird bath near the feeder, the sound of the water will also help them find the bird feeder.

What Will Happen if I Stop Filling My Feeder?

Blue mosaic glass bird feeder

Birds are intelligent creatures, and they rely on more than residential feeders for sustenance. If you stop filling your feeders temporarily, they will simply find their meals elsewhere. 

If you decide to resume filling your feeders, they will return eventually. It might take some time for them to find the feeders. However, between the squirrels finding them, spreading seed out near the feeders, and communication from other birds upon re-discovering the food, your birds are sure to return.

In conclusion, keeping your feeders filled with good quality seed, adding a water source, and ensuring the feeders are in an ideal location is the best way to keep your wild birds coming to your yard for meals. Doing so will help them associate you with kindness and their food and therefore help them recognize your yard as a friendly bird haven.

Birds & wildlifeOutdoor living

About the Author

Alicia Bowe
Alicia Bowe
Alicia Bowe is a product specialist with a flair for interior design and outdoor decorating. By day, she actively researches, measures, and writes about all things Sunnydaze. By night, after her two kids are in bed, she spends time relaxing in the hammock swing on the patio with her water fountain running for a calming ambiance.


Sarah wolfe

I live in a seaside town. I have a small garden which I have turned from a concrete bomb site into a haven for wildlife. I have just started to feed birds which I love to see. However I have seen a neighbours cat chomping on the mealworms. Also if I put anything on ground level seagulls take it and call their mates to join in . Any suggestions . I have just made my own fat balls by mashing lard and good quality feed together and smothering this on/into a pine cone which I have hung on my arbour overgrown with honeysuckle and another on my hebe’.


My wife and i live in a 2nd floor apartment of a 3 flat. Our frontroom has 3 windows and we always put bird seed in the middle window and the little sparrows come every day and chow down. One day about 5 years ago I started putting out black sunflower seeds and all of a sudden we started getting cardinals and they have been coming ever since. the papa and mama come and when their babies are old enough to fly they also come with the parents and get fed until they can fen for themselves. when there is no seed on the window sill they chirp from a nearby tree and my wife says your friends are looking to be fed so i put some seed out and then they come in right away. They are very smart and most definitely remember who feeds them. It’s such a pleasure to see this and we also have squirrels that come also.

David Gonzalez

I loved this article. I feed my birds and squirrels year round and they don’t get nervous when I am around or filling the water or the food. They bring me so much joy and happiness. Started doing this when I was going through some issues with my life. Truly comforting and now it is a part of my life.

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