Jatinga – Birds Mystery Suicides Occurs Every Year
Jatinga, is an Indian village on a ridge, is located in Dima Hasao District, Assam State, approximately 330 kilometers south of Guwahati. Jatinga is well-known for the phenomenon of birds “committing suicide”. Even though the birds do not commit suicide and are in fact killed, the myth of the suicides has spread far and wide among common people. The region boasts landscapes with verdant hills, vast forests, and rivers meandering through majestic valleys; there’s certainly no shortage of welcoming sites hereabouts.
The village is inhabited by more than 2,500 Khasi-pnar tribal people and some Dimasa people. The Jatinga village is lush green and picturesque, beautifully surrounded by serene mountains. Nonetheless, that’s not what it’s famous for. In fact, Jatinga is well-known for a completely different reason, it’s Bird Mystery that occurs at Jatinga between September and November each year.
Although in the late monsoon months, a huge number of migratory & local birds commit mass suicide in the village. Just after sunset, between 7 and 10 pm. The Bird Mystery is a unique phenomenon that starts when myriads of birds descend from the sky, plummeting to their deaths by crashing into buildings and trees. Meanwhile, birds aren’t recognized to be suicidal; the wonder has mystified villagers, tourists, and scientists alike. For many years, locals have strongly believed that evil spirits living in the skies were in control of bringing down the birds.
Yes, the phenomenon isn’t true, because a number of scientific studies and experiments have been concluded that the birds are usually disoriented by the monsoon fog. Hence, they’re heavily attracted by the village lights and fly towards them, occasionally hitting building walls and trees during the descent. Therefore, some birds die, while the others are grievously injured, becoming easy prey for the villagers to capture. These birds are often dazed and disheveled and do not put up any struggle when villagers attack them with catapults or bamboo sticks.
Moreover, another research also reveals that the birds come in only from the North and land only on a well-defined strip in the village, which is about 1.5 km long and 200 meters wide. Lights placed along the southern side of the village have failed to attract any birds. Furthermore, the victim of birds isn’t long-distance migrators. Almost 44 species have been recognized as “suicidal” and most of them come from adjacent valleys and hill slopes. These include Kingfishers, Black Bitterns, Tiger Bitterns, and Pond Herons, among others. Furthermore, a few more interesting stories were identified by experts and bird watchers.
They say, most of the suicidal birds lose their natural habitats due to flooding during the monsoon season. So they appear to be migrating to other places, and Jatinga is in their migratory path. But it isn’t clear why the birds fly at night, or why they get voluntarily trapped at the same place every year. It is not suicide, to be precise, but the fact remains that birds are attracted by light and fly towards any object with a light source. This phenomenon still puzzles bird specialists, and the problem deserves a deeper scientific study from various angles.
The local calls this phenomenon “avian hara-kiri” which was first observed by the Zeme Nagas, the inhabitant tribe of the region, in the early 1900s. It scared them so badly that they sold their land to Jaintias and left the place in 1905. The new inhabitants also observed the phenomenon but interpreted it as a gift from God. Hence, The Jaintias isn’t entirely wrong, because the phenomenon has captured the interest of wildlife circles and sightseers, making the village of Jatinga world-famous.
The birds alone are responsible for a boost in tourism during the monsoon months. And they’re quite delicious; locals relish these exotic delicacies. The villagers purposely switch on lights and lanterns to attract the birds and capture them every year. Therefore, the mystery is the main event to promote tourism; district authorities have created a festival around bird suicide, called the “Jatinga Festival”, held in 2010. If you’re interested in viewing the rare phenomenon in person, the nearest airport in the city of Guwahati is 350 km away from the village. You will have to wait until next year, though! What remains beyond doubt is that while the researchers continue to construct their hypotheses, the birds will continue to rain down on Jatinga.