The Cook Islands, a sovereign state in free association with New Zealand, uses two official legal tender currencies. The New Zealand Dollar circulates in parallel with the local Cook Islands Dollar; at the same time, the government also authorises many legal tender coins in the Cook Islands Dollar currency for collector's purposes.
Collector coins are dedicated to historical or general popular culture themes not related to the country itself. Many of them are in standard bullion sizes, but the silver Fifty Dollars - such as this coin - are not; their weight is more than a half ounce but less than one ounce, and also less than that of a British Crown, even though the diameter is the same as the latter (hence, the coins are thinner).
This coin was issued as part of a Royal Mint twelve-coin set featuring Endangered Wildlife, and is dedicated to the Falcon.
Falcons are birds of prey in the genus Falco, which includes about 40 species. Falcons are widely distributed on all continents of the world except Antarctica, though closely related raptors did occur there in the Eocene.
Adult falcons have thin, tapered wings, which enable them to fly at high speed and change direction rapidly. Fledgling falcons, in their first year of flying, have longer flight feathers, which make their configuration more like that of a general-purpose bird such as a broad-wing. This makes flying easier while learning the exceptional skills required to be effective hunters as adults.
The falcons are the largest genus in the Falconinae subfamily of Falconidae, which itself also includes another subfamily comprising caracaras and a few other species. All these birds kill with their beaks, using a "tooth" on the side of their beaks - unlike the hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey in the Accipitridae, which use their feet.
The largest falcon is the gyrfalcon at up to 65 cm in length. The smallest falcon species is the Pygmy falcon which measures just 20 cm. As with hawks and owls, falcons exhibit sexual dimorphism, with the females typically larger than the males, thus allowing a wider range of prey species.