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At The European Gull Screeching Championship, Seagulls Don't Ruffle Anyone's Feathers

(SOUNDBITE OF IMITATION SEAGULL SCREECH)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That is not a seagull. That is a human imitating one, and we'll explain why in a moment.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A lot of people in coastal Belgium hate seagulls. That's because in the last few decades...

JAN SEYS: Seagulls started breeding on the roofs.

CORNISH: Jan Seys is with the Flanders Marine Institute in Ostend, Belgium. He points out that his country has about 37 miles of coastline, a narrow slice between France and the Netherlands.

SEYS: That's one of the advantages of living in Belgium.

CORNISH: Indeed.

SEYS: Thank you.

CHANG: All right, back to the seagulls - Mr. Seys says much of Europe's coast has seen declines in the seagull population. But in Belgium, their numbers are up, and people are getting really annoyed.

SEYS: Seagulls opening trash bags, the bird droppings of course. Some even try to steal ice creams or sandwiches from people.

CHANG: That is where the Flanders Marine Institute where Seys works comes in.

SEYS: Why not try to put it into perspective and give the seagull a more friendly and likable image?

CORNISH: Thus the Gull Screeching Championship was born - humans doing their best to sound like seagulls of course.

CHANG: Jan Seys was one of the four judges last weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF IMITATION SEAGULL SCREECH)

CORNISH: The winners were a Dutch man and a Belgian woman. They won bragging rights and a basket of Belgian beers. This was only the second time such an event took place.

SEYS: The first edition was a Belgian championship, but because of the success of last year's event, the organizers decided to have a new one this year. There were competitors from the Netherlands, France and Belgium. Next year, it could become a world championship. But of course we don't know whether people will come all the way from the U.S. or Australia, whatever, just for a gull screeching competition. But it would be nice.

CHANG: All right, get practicing, America.

(SOUNDBITE OF IMITATION SEAGULL SCREECH) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.