So it’s 5:30 in the morning, but you have to stay sharp to find that elusive black-faced continga. Or as it is not as well-known, Conioptilon mcilhennyi.
If the latter name rings a bell, it is because the bird in the South American jungle is named for the McIlhenny family of Avery Island. The family has supported LSU research into birds for many years.
Four LSU graduate students recently won the grand prize in a birding contest in Peru. They identified 493 species in the competition, for which the prize trophy depicts the black-faced continga. It was first discovered in Peru by an LSU museum curator in the 1960s, part of a long tradition of LSU’s work in this field.
The four graduate students — Glenn Seeholzer, Michael Harvey, Ryan Terrill and Paul van Els — competed with a U.S. team from Cornell University in New York, and other teams from around the world. The Amazon basin and the Andes mountains are particularly rich in species for birds.
The expedition — nice and plush, Seeholzer said, because of its sponsorship by the Peruvian government — is part of a worldwide competition for eco-tourism. As the McIlhenny reference indicates, Louisiana is also a significant destination for birdwatchers from around the United States and the world. It is a significant niche in the world tourism market.
The trophy is a reminder that LSU’s role in Louisiana is only part of what a great university should be. Its classrooms should be the entire world. These students are carrying on in a great tradition for LSU.