It's hard for many animals to survive the winter months, especially when humans have turned many of their habitats into shopping malls that sell hiking gear to visit those disappearing habitats that are often displaced by shopping malls. We can, however, help birds weather the winter months. Birds can lose about 10 percent of their body weight during the winter. Here's how to help them.

A great deal of this information is summarized from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

When to Feed the Birds

If you are serious about feeding the birds, it is recommended that you do it twice daily before dark. When the weather is considerably harsh, do it more often.

Water is Just as Important

A heated birdbath can provide the birds with water. You may not want to expend electricity on such a thing. You could remove the ice and refill the water in the birdbath when you go out to feed the birds. Or you can find a creative way to heat the bath.

What to Feed the Birds

Kitchen scraps such as fat, suet, mild grated cheese, cooked potatoes, pastry, apples, pears and other soaked fruits are supposedly OK to feed to birds. Any bird feed that is high in calories such as unsalted peanuts, bird cake and food bars is also recommended. Feeders full of sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts and sunflower-rich mixes are also suggested.

Where to Put the Feeders

Feeding trays should be high off the ground away from where cats can get to them. Squirrel baffles are also suggested. Place feeders where it is difficult for both cats and squirrels to reach. One of my favorite tips, which may not be applicable for the wintertime, is to grow spiny plants around the base of feeding trays to deter cats.

Watch out for Disease

If birds start hanging around your place, and they will if you're giving away free eats, you are going to have to watch out for disease. Most disease is spread through the droppings. Rats, who are also attracted to the food, are bound to come around. These guys can spread disease as well. Remember the plague? Keep your bird feed table clean. Never handle your bird feeders without gloves. If there is excess food or if food tends to rot, decrease the amount of food provided. When you clean the feeders, make sure to use all-natural cleaners as not to hurt the birds. Rinse out birdbath daily.