New $5 note introduces our Gaga bird

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.