As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

New $5 note introduces our Gaga bird

The RBA's new $5 note includes new security features and a depiction of a native bird that bears little resemblance to the real thing.

12 APR 2016 - 12:04 PM  UPDATED 12 APR 2016 - 12:04 PM

If the new $5 note's designers had taken the same liberties with the Queen as they did with the Eastern Spinebill, her Majesty would look like a cross between Dame Edna and Lady Gaga.

The design for the new note, released on Tuesday, is aimed at thwarting counterfeiters but twitchers - as birdwatchers are known - could be just as miffed as the crooks.

"Each banknote in the new series will depict a different species of Australian wattle and a native bird within a number of the elements," the Reserve Bank of Australia said in its announcement of the new note.

"On the $5 banknote, these are the Prickly Moses wattle and the Eastern Spinebill."

What's not mentioned is that the Eastern Spinebill has had something of a makeover.

In real life, the bird has a subdued palette ranging from white, through tan, darker brown, and black.

The RBA's version is a riot of colour - a patchwork of nearly every hue in the rainbow.

Steve Anyon-Smith, a professional birdwatching guide and author of a book on birdwatching for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, described the bird's depiction as bizarre.

"It's only similarity to an Eastern Spinebill is the general shape," Mr Anyon-Smith said.

The RBA said in its announcement the design followed "a process of extensive consultation with subject matter experts".

Mr Anyon-Smith says it seemed unlikely that those experts included ornithologists.

The Eastern Spinebill was a beautiful bird in its own right and did not need enhancement, he said.

"Yeah, if it was a boring bird, jazz it up a bit, but it looks like a hybrid between a spinebill and something from South America," he said.

The RBA said anti-counterfeiting measures built into the new notes will be explained in a public awareness campaign in coming months.

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