‘Seagull Boy’ aged nine from Derby copies seagull, wins European Championship

Having once been nipped by a seagull while eating a tuna sandwich, Cooper Wallace gained the power to perfectly mimic a seagull. He travelled to De Panne in Belgium to put his skills to the test.

Consider the seagull. Depending on who you ask, it is either a bird of great fortune or great evil. For the sailor, it is a sign of a coastline and land, a herald of either the end of a long journey or the beginning of one. For the person holding some chips, or an ice-cream, or some crisps, or just any kind of foodstuff to be quite honest, it is a source of terror, the horrendous squawks signalling an impending attack. Few birds (I am aware there is no such thing as a ‘seagull’) elicit such polarising emotions within us. 

Once while walking along the beach in Wales, enjoying some fish and chips from a nearby shop, I was accosted by one of these foul birds. The squawk, the swoop and the attack happened almost in concert, leaving me shaken and fishless. Ever since, whenever I hear that hideous cry, my flight or fight response kicks in almost immediately, and I vibrate with fear that, once again, my fingers and my food may be in grave danger.

So it was interesting to see and, indeed, hear about, Cooper Wallace, a nine-year-old boy from Derbyshire. On Sunday, with a score of 92/100, he emerged victorious in the European Gull Screeching Championships, and, well, just look at the video below.

I had a friend at university who was very good at impressions. His personal favourite was Arnold Schwarzenneger, and he could convince you if you closed your eyes that Arnie was in the room with you. Or at least he would have, if it was at all possible for Arnold Schwarzenneger to be bumming around a student flat in Jesmond in the year 2011. I digress.

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Some people have a talent, and Cooper is one of them. Listen to that shill cry, and tell me you don’t feel the hairs rise on your neck. Tell me you don’t instinctively reach for any food nearby and clutch it close, in fear that soon a gull will be making its way out of the sky to rob you. Cooper could convince me anywhere, and at any time, that a gull was on its way to ruin my day.

‘He managed to include several call types in his performance and each of them resembled a real seagull call in a most impressive way,’ noted Jan Seys, a competition judge and marine biologist, in comments to the BBC. ‘In face, for me, he was not only the best of the young participants, but of all those who took part in the championship.’

The purpose of the competition (which, you will remember, is the European Gull Screeching Championships) is to elicit some sympathy for the humble, chip-stealing gull. They are ‘an essential element of our coasts, but are often maligned as “rats of the sea”,’ Mr Seys added. ‘Also, we conceive of the judging as serious business, with a jury compose of professionals experienced in gull research and/or policy.’ 

But enough about the competition, and more from Cooper. How did he first realise he could copy so precisely the sound of the gull? What does he think of the bird? Does he have a super-hero name?

Per the BBC, he refers to himself as ‘Seagull Boy’, in a nod to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man. And just like Spider-Man, he was even bitten by his alter-ego: a few years ago, Cooper was nipped by a seagull when eating a tuna sandwich by the beach.

Despite that traumatic moment, he sees the birds as ‘a really nice animal’ and ‘likes them because of their noise’ — though despite his uncanny ability to mimic the flying seaside thieves, he is still wary of eating at the beach. When it comes to gulls, it seems that not even Seagull Boy himself is safe.