The popularity of the Eurovision Song Contest in the Baltics can be easily explained. No, really.
First, everything that starts with "euro" is destined to sell better due to the impatience of the three republics to become European Union members. And second, it's Europe's biggest pop song contest and offers a big stage for Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian talent.
But the Estonian Fund for Nature, the Estonian Ornithological Society and the telecommunication company Tele2 are pushing the free publicity a step further by hosting the Bird Eurovision Contest, which will decide the best bird song in Europe.
Members of the organization Bird Life International, a global alliance of national conservation organizations, will choose the winner.
Birds from 17 countries, including Belarus and the Faroe Islands, are registered to take part in the free contest as of March 18.
Organizers say none of the birds have to fly to Estonia to take part in the contest. It's being conducted on the Web, at birdeurovision.org.
Visitors to the site can vote for bird songs representing the different countries from April 25 through May 25. The winner will not get a single penny, only fame and glory.
Voting in the Estonian section of the Web site to choose the bird that will represent Estonia in the main contest has already begun. Organizers have picked 10 birds from the 335 species found in Estonia.
The final 10 include the nightingale, golden oriole, marsh warbler, robin, song thrush, blackcap, crane, great snipe, swallow and common snipe. The nightingale is the early leader.
Organizer Urmo Lehtveer said the contest is using the popularity of the Eurovision Song Contest to promote environmental awareness.
One snag is that there could be 10 nightingales, for example, in the finals. "The recordings of the birds' songs are different, so one bird can represent several countries," said Lehtveer.
His favorite is the "Gallinago gallinago," or common snipe, a rare bird that doesn't actually sing but produces intriguing sounds with its wings.
Several of the recordings for Estonia's eternal contest were made by Fred Jussi, a locally famous sound technician.
"We used several recordings he made years ago," said Lehtveer.
Lehtveer suspects that many countries will send in recordings made on old vinyl records.