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The Mystery of Jatinga’s Bird Suicide; Read to know

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Who doesn’t love a good mystery? The planet is dotted with places that are surreal, supernatural and sometimes downright bizarre. And, while many of these mysterious goings-on have logical explanations, others remain stubbornly unsolved.

One of them is the Mysterious Jatinga where birds commit suicide. Birds and suicide ? Yes, spooky isn’t it ? Well, let’s take a virtual visit to the Village of Jatinga.

Jatinga is a small and scenic village nestling among the Borail Hills Range. It is located in Dima Hasao district, Assam State in India. It is 330 kilometres (210 mi) south of the state capital, Guwahati. The village is inhabited by about 2,500 people which mainly comprise of Khasi-Pnar and a few Assamese.

The Mystery

Mystery

Over the last 100 years, thousands of birds have flown to their death over a small strip of land in Jatinga, India. In a town of only 2,500 people, this bizarre Bermuda Triangle of avian death remains largely unexplained, despite studies by India’s most prestigious ornithologists. Despite the deaths every year, the birds continue to fly to their death in this small area of 1,500 meters by 200 meters even today.

When does it occur?

Mystery Jatinga Mystery The North-Eastern Chronicle

After the monsoon, usually in September and October and only occurring on dark moonless nights, 44 species of bird in Jatinga suddenly become disturbed between the hours of 6:00 PM and 9:30 PM. Becoming strangely disoriented, the birds plunge toward the torches and lights of the cities. However, the term “suicide” is a misnomer for a couple of reasons.

Because of its remoteness, Jatinga has few visitors from the outside world, except for two crucial months – August and September. Those are the months when a curious and unexplained phenomenon envelops the area, a phenomenon that has now become the intense focus of international scientific attention. It’s a natural phenomenon that few could yet provide an explanation to.

Local Beliefs and Superstitions

Many natives believe that evil spirits flying in the sky are responsible for bringing down the birds in that area. The phenomenon has gone virtually unnoticed till only recently though reports of the mysterious birds of Jatinga first surfaced towards the end of the last century. Inhabitants of Jatinga recall their ancestors describing how a small settlement of Naga tribes lived in the area then. One moonless night, they set out with lighted flares to search for a missing buffalo. No sooner had they reached the Jatinga ridge when birds swooped down on them from the darkness.

Terrified, the superstitious Nagas fled believing them to be evil spirits. They left the area and some years later, a group of Jaintia tribes came looking for a place to settle. The Nagas pointed them in the direction of the ridge.

Scientific Theories behind this phenomenon

Scientific Theories behind jatinga bird mystery Mystery The North-Eastern Chronicle

According to the famous ornithologist Anwaruddin Choudhury, as analysed in his book The Birds of Assam, “the majority of birds are juvenile and local migrants are disturbed by the high-velocity winds at their roots.” In an article by The Sentinel, Choudhury says that when the disturbed birds fly towards the light as refugees, they are struck with bamboo poles, killed or injured.

The late naturalist E.P Gee brought this occurrence to global attention in the 1960s, when he drove to Jatinga with renowned ornithologist Salim Ali. The results analysed were within uncertain conditions at high altitudes and high-speed winds due to extensive fog quality at that time.

Many studies say that most birds die during the months of September to November because during this time, water bodies in Assam are flooded and the birds lose their natural habitat. Their nests get broken down, and so, it becomes mandatory for them to migrate to other places, and Jatinga falls on their migratory path.

Theories have also come up suggesting that a combination of high altitude, high winds and fog leads to disorientation among birds. As a mode of stabilisation then, they get attracted to the lights of nearby villages. Another theory suggests that the climate of the area leads to a “change in the magnetic qualities of the underground water”, causing the bewildered state of the birds.

One possible explanation of the mysterious suicide is usage of high power searchlights on the hilltops in the area, which in turn attracts the birds flying at that time. Birds plunge down towards the lights and get killed upon landing on bamboo poles. However, not all long-distance migratory birds are affected by this incident.

These are how villagers of Jatinga get the opportunity to trap the birds and consume them for meals, as the arrival of birds is considered a “gift of Gods”.

Bird Conservation Initiatives

Wildlife and bird societies in India have gone to the village to educate the locals about the phenomenon in an attempt to stop the mass killings of the birds. Since then bird deaths have decreased by 40 percent. Government officials in Assam hope to use the phenomenon to attract tourists to the small city, and some work has gone into creating accommodations for visitors in Jatinga.

Also Read: The Mystery surrounding Vault B of Padamanabhaswamy: The Inside story

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