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Boy, 9, from Derbyshire, wins gull screeching competition
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Boy, 9, from Derbyshire, wins gull screeching competition

A nine-year-old boy from Derbyshire has screeched his way to victory at the European championships of a gull impersonation competition.

Cooper Wallace, a gull enthusiast from Chesterfield, competed in the fourth European gull screeching championship in Belgium on Sunday.

Taking to the stage in a full gull costume, his uncannily accurate impression scored him 92 points out of 100, leading him to first place in the junior category.

As part of his act he lunged at a large cone of chips held by his sister Shelby.

“My school friends thought it was annoying at first. But not now. I did it,” Cooper told the Times. “I just wanted to make the noise to remember I got pecked by one. But I like seagulls.”

Despite his love for the bird, he said that they “can be a bit scary” and once stole his sandwich. He now eats in the safety of a tent when at the beach.

“I feel like they are a really nice animal, I like them because of their noise,” he said.

Jan Seys, a marine biologist who was president of the judging panel, said Cooper “managed to include several call types in his performance and each of them resembled a real seagull call in a most impressive way”.

“We pay attention to timbre, rhythm as well as variation,” he said, adding that the birds have a “repertoire of sounds” for different occasions.

“The gull caller who can capture this variation well, and demonstrate it as truthfully as possible, wins,” he said.

There are three categories in the annual meeuwenschreeuwen (gull screeching) competition – junior, adult and “colony”, which is for groups of two to five impersonators.

A jury of gull lovers awards points based on the screeching (75% of the total) and acting (25%). Competitors are simply told to “screech and behave as a seagull. Do it well, because you have only one chance”.

It was the first time a UK contestant had participated in the competition, which took place in the Belgian coastal resort of De Panne and aims to reduce “friction between seagulls and humans”.

The organisers said “scientific observation” was required to recreate their noise accurately and people who took the time to observe the creatures “will start caring for them”.

Seys said judging the competition was taken seriously and although a lighthearted affair, it had a strong message.

“It is more than fun and entertainment, it is also meant to elicit some sympathy for seagulls, which are an essential element of our coasts but are often maligned as ‘rats of the sea’,” he said.

Source: theguardian.com