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Friday, February 28, 2014

How Do Birds Stay Warm In The Winter?

"How do birds stay warm in the winter?" One of our patrons stocks several birdfeeders year-round. With the cold weather we've been having lately, she was worried about how her birds were keeping warm. Putting "how do birds stay warm" into an online search engine showed that this is a popular concern.

Some birds will fly south for the winter, especially the species that eat insects rather than seeds. However, the ones that stick around in snowy climes have their own ways to stay cozy. Birds' natural oils help waterproof their feathers, and some birds will grow extra feathers for the winter. Like people, they can shiver to stay warm, and they're also known to sit in the sun when they can, sometimes spreading their wings to get as much sun as possible. When sunshine isn't an option, they fluff up their feathers to trap pockets of air, which then serve as excellent insulation. On especially cold nights, some will enter a torpor, dramatically lowering their body temperature and heartbeat so as to conserve warmth. They may also huddle together and share heat that way.

To keep their legs warm, birds can either stand on one leg, tucking the other up under their feathers, or hunker down to keep both legs cozy. According to an article at, the special scales on birds' legs also can help retain heat.

Bird lovers have several ways to help their feathered friends make it through the winter. Providing good winter food such as suet and black oil sunflower seeds will give birds the calories they need to stay warm. Keeping a heated birdbath will give them a reliable source of drinking water. Finally, having a clean birdhouse, roost box, or just a yard full of evergreen trees and shrubs can give birds a snug place to roost. Sally Roth's "Attracting Birds to Your Backyard" suggests putting your old Christmas tree outside where it can serve as a shelter.

For information on building birdhouses and birdfeeders, patrons can check out some of the books we have here at the library, including Paul Meisel's "Bird-Friendly Nest Boxes & Feeders" and Don McNeil's "The Birdhouse Book." For information on attracting and feeding birds, we have "North American Birdfeeder Guide" by Robert Burton and Stephen W. Kress, and "Attracting Birds to Your Backyard" by Sally Roth.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Can Businesses Refuse To Accept Cash?

"Can businesses refuse to accept cash?" While none of us here at the Newton Falls Public Library are lawyers, we have several resources at hand that we could use to help answer our patron's question.

We weren't able to find the answer in either Nolo's Encyclopedia of Everyday Law or the American Bar Association's Complete Personal Legal Guide, so we took our search to the Internet. Putting "can businesses refuse to accept cash" into an online search engine brought up the Federal Reserve website. The site has a list of frequently asked questions, such as "Why does the United States periodically design its currency?" (to keep ahead of counterfeiters) and "How long is the life span of paper money?" (estimated anywhere from three to fifteen years, depending on the denomination).

As it turns out, U.S. coins and currency are considered legal payment "for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues." However, private businesses, organizations, and individuals, aren't required to accept cash as payment for goods or services, unless there's a state law saying that they must. To help clear up the distinction between what constitutes a debt and what constitutes a good or service, or for advice on what to do if a creditor is not accepting cash, it would be best to consult someone with a legal degree, since we're not qualified to provide legal advice here at the library. However, we do have a collection of legal guides available to check out, including Nolo's Every Tenant's Legal Guide and Neighbor Law.