The squawking may be pitch-perfect, but is it really authentic? That's the kind of question judges will be considering at the 45th Annual Bird Calling contest held Friday afternoon at Piedmont High School.
The yearly spring contest, which was spearheaded by a teacher named Leonard Waxdeck in 1963, requires contestants to strut and screech and honk like a bird to qualify for one of the top three places and a chance to appear on Late Night with David Letterman on May 26.
In its early years, students appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
This year's entrants will be judged based on the authenticity of their call, their poise and delivery, and the content of their introduction "sketch," which includes an informative description of the bird.
Students Anna Kritikos, Claire Rogers and Rosie Talcott won 2009's contest by imitating the call of a Rhinoceros Hornbill, a bird native to the jungles of Southeast Asia.
Talcott, 19, who now attends Washington University in St. Louis, has a bit of advice to offer Friday's competitors. "The funnier the better - and make it wacky."
In a phone interview today, she acknowledged that the birdcall itself is important, but said, "The majority of the contest is about the skit that you do."
Teams incorporate their birdcalls into an information sketch that explores a particular type of bird, Talcott said. She said her team's skit had a theme of environmentalism and also focused on deforestation.
Talcott said she and her teammates appeared on Late Night with David Letterman within days of winning the contest.
"It was really fun going into the studio and getting our makeup done, and waiting in the green room," she said.
The contest will take place at 3:30 p.m. at Piedmont High School's Alan J. Harvey Theater in Piedmont. Reserved seating tickets costs $50, with general seating $25, and $10 for students.