How to track and find nearby Pokémon with the Sightings screen in Pokémon Go

Aug 18, 2016

How do you track nearby Pokémon in Pokémon Go? Not with radar, sadly. But the Sightings screen can help.

I’ve become thoroughly engrossed in the magic of Pokemon Go, Niantic’s new augmented reality game. To play, you create an account, then physically walk around your neighborhood to “find” nearby Pokémon. We’ve already covered the essential Pokemon Go tips, tricks, and cheats, but now it’s time to get specific: How exactly do you track your nearby future pals?

Niantic’s software is annoyingly opaque, with a blinking radar ring both around you and the Pokémon creature bar that can easily mislead you into walking the wrong way. But here’s the scoop on how it actually works.

How to find nearby Pokémon

Once you’ve set up the game and started walking, you’ll notice a small grey box on the screen to the right of your virtual avatar; this displays three nearby Pokémon shapes (or filled in avatars, if you’ve already caught or engaged with those critters).

Tap that grey box, and you’ll be presented with a group of up to nine Pokémon in your local area: This is the Nearby & Sightings screen.

Pokémon Go

Note: The game originally launched with the Nearby screen, which lets you see up to 9 Pokémon in the area displayed on your map; Niantic is currently testing the Nearby & Sightings screen as a replacement option. When you launch the game and tap on the grey box, you’ll either just see the Sightings option, or the Nearby & Sightings combination screen.

If your account has the Nearby & Sightings screen, you’ll see a list of up to 9 Pokémon in your area, sorted under the Nearby and Sightings headings. The Pokémon under Nearby show an icon of a local PokéStop where you can find those critters; as you can see in the video below, you can tap on any Pokémon in the Nearby list to find their rough location on the map. In contrast, Pokémon under the Sightings screen have a simple green grass background, and are located somewhere in your map area (your entire visible area, not just the direction you’re facing).

According to some testing from Reddit user AibelTelWicked and confirmed by iMore, the screen appears to scan your map area every 15-30 seconds for new Pokémon; any creatures that spawn will be automatically added. Pokémon that are closer to the direction you’re moving will slide up to the top-left corner; critters that are further away will move to the bottom right, and eventually off the list. You can use these metrics to figure out if you’re going the right way for a Pokémon: Start walking in any direction: If your quarry drops further down the list, you then know you’re going in the wrong direction. If they float to the top, you’re going the right way.

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Note: On average, Pokémon spawn on the map for about 10-15 minutes in the same stationary location; after that time is up, they disappear. Pokémon won’t disappear just because another trainer has caught them — they’re available for every trainer to catch.

When a Pokémon despawns, it will automatically be removed from the sightings list on the next scan. It can also disappear from the list if you move too far away (around 700-1000 feet).

Unfortunately, there’s currently no way to really figure out which direction these grass-hidden Pokémon are lurking short of watching Pokémon float up or down the Sightings list. The Nearby section does allow you to tap on creatures and get their rough location; unfortunately, it only covers Pokémon near PokéStops — if you’re out of PokéStop range, you may not see that screen at all.

It’s not the most elegant way Niantic could have let us catch Pokémon, but hey — it adds some fun and mystery to the catching experience. At least we don’t have to risk real-world ticks to walk around aimlessly in tall grass until we encounter a Pokémon.

What the radar rings mean

When you walk in the real world, you also walk in Pokémon Go. As you do, a small grey-purple radar ring emanates from your virtual person. This radar ring is, essentially, your “reach” in discovering nearby Pokémon.

This is also what allows you to catch Pokémon without having to enter restricted buildings, like police stations: Once your Pokémon is in the top left corner of the Sightings screen, you should be able to walk to the property’s border and let your radar rings bring the critter out of hiding.

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There’s also a little green radar box that emanates from the Sightings Pokémon box: This lets the user know that the list of Pokémon Sightings is updating: This can mean that your quarry has shifted closer to you… but it can also mean that they’ve fallen further behind.

Essentially, if you see this box blink, it’s worth checking your full list to see how your tracking is proceeding. You never know what might pop up on that screen!

How to find rare or evolved Pokémon

Though most of your evolved Pokémon get that way from being fed special candy, you can catch evolved versions of your creatures — and rare Pokémon, too! Here’s the deal.

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Rare Pokémon tend to hang out in specific places and at specific times. Like the original game, you’ll have a much better time trying to catch a Clefairy or Drowzee in the evening times; similarly, you’ll find element-based Pokémon close to the real-world version of their element.

Evolved Pokémon tend to hang out in the same area as their unevolved counterparts, but they’re much rarer to come across. Keep checking your Pokémon Sightings!

Remember, also, that rarer Pokémon with higher CP (creature power) will be more of a pain to catch; high-level creatures may have an orange or red glowing circle around them rather than the green one when you attempt to capture them, and it may take several Pokéball throws before they stay inside. Sadly, unlike the original game, you can’t weaken them with your fellow Pokémon; the only way to weaken them is to repeatedly catch them in Pokeballs until they stop fighting.

Once you hit a higher level, you can also purchase Razz Berries to feed to wild Pokémon: This temporarily weakens them so that you have an easier chance of catching them in a Pokéball. As you level up, you can also use more powerful Pokéballs for a higher chance of success.


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