New Zealand Geographic Resources

The story of the bird on our $20 note


Written by Andrea Graves
New Zealand Geographic

Kārearea, also known as the New Zealand falcon, bear the large, forward-facing eyes that signify a hunter. They are carnivores, flying at the top of the food chain and sustained by those below them.

Most meals comprise a small bird, but they occasionally take prey larger than themselves (they are magpie sized). This rouses the ire of pigeon – and chicken-keepers in particular, some of whom shoot, trap and poison them. Such persecution is one of the kārearea’s main threats.

The main image on the $20 note showcases Shaheena, whose regal figure sits on the reverse side from Queen Elizabeth II. Shaheena is a small, dark bush falcon, a form classified as ‘threatened/nationally vulnerable’ and found mainly in the North Island. 

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