Perhaps, figured the geniuses behind the first annual seagull screeching competition held in Adinkerke, Belgium, the beleaguered birds needed a rebranding. Sure there were many nuisance complaints of the gulls squawking and stealing sandwiches, and pooping on cars and windows. But what about their muted grey and white beauty? Their ambassadorship of the coast? Their…screeching?
Claude Willaert, an organizer of the competition who works as an educator at a coast-based visitor centre and is a comedian in his spare time, thinks the anti-gull sentiment is unfair. Sure the birds open trash bags to get to the food, he admits, but “people throw away too much food.” Besides, he says, “People feed seagulls with old bread at the beach. The birds are confused when they see someone walking with a sandwich on the sea promenade.”
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These birds aren’t bad. Just misunderstood and unappreciated. Enter the Seagull Screeching Competition. Last year’s competition inspired seven women and 15 men to take to the stage, and flap their arms and screech in an attempt to convince audience members and judges that they should wear the (metaphorical) feathery crown. The best screechers, says Willaert, make it difficult to distinguish between a human and a gull.
“If participants tell us that they watched seagulls to see how they behave and listened to the sound they make, then we have achieved our goal,” he says. They’re hoping to boost participation to 25 this year. It will be held on March 22 at a café in Belgium.
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Those keen on competing need to know that it isn’t squawking alone that will lock up the victory. It’s important to look the part, which can score you five points on top of the 15 available to the best screecher. Hopefully, says an indignant Willaert, the competition will inspire “more sympathy for the seagull.” And that any screeching from the audience will be laughter.