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Jatinga Phenomenon:Do birds really commit suicide

Jatinga, orinthologist, suicide,species of birds, foggy, misty, moonless night

Birds and suicide! The two words do not go together. Birds are one of the most magnificent creations of God. But these splendid creations of God sometimes behave unnaturally. Why do birds commit suicide? No one knows! It’s a mystery and no one knows what happens. Do birds really commit suicide? Are they killed or it is all natural death?

Jatinga, in Assam is a mysterious place where lots of migratory birds die every year. Jatinga is located in a spur in the Haflong ridge of North Cachar hills district of Assam –a place of mesmerizing natural beauty situated in the North-Eastern region of India. Jatinga is like a junction to the roads leading to Lumding and Silchar. Jatinga is not only a place of natural beauty but the queer phenomenon of birds committing suicide in this place makes it a place of interest of all bird-lovers.

This queer phenomenon of birds committing occurs during the late monsoon seasons. During this season Jatinga is veiled by the fog and the mist. The incident generally occurs when the air is foggy, cloudy and misty. Also slight drops of rains are an added advantage for this phenomenon to occur. As per the studies, the best time for occurance of this phenomenon is between 7p.m to 10 p.m during the month of September to November. Birds come to this place from August onwards. Even in August birds come here but in fewer number.

During these foggy moonless nights when the wind blows from the north to south, the birds in this place remain dazed and inactive. The birds disheveled and dazed do not try to fly as if they are half dead. May be all these birds behave peculiarly because of the shock they get due to the peculiar weather conditions of this period in Jatinga. Among the hundreds of species of birds which are found and die here are some of the rare species like Pond Heron, Kingfishers, Tiger Bittern, Black Bittern, Little Egret etc. Various studies also reveal that there is also a correlation between the Jatinga- phenomenon and the breeding period of the birds. Other than that, the heavy rainfalls, floods and the submergence of the natural habitats may lead to migration of the birds to Jatinga. Actually, Jatinga falls on the migratory route of the locally migrated birds. It had been observed that all these conditions somehow or the other leads to the Jatinga-phenomenon. It had been noted that, during 1988, which was the year of heavy floods, a comparatively huge flock of birds were seen in Jatinga.

Many ornithologists have studied about this mystic phenomenon of Jatinga, but no single hypothesis could give a comprehensive explanation about this mystery. However, contrary to the popular belief, ‘birds do not commit suicide’. The phenomenon might occur due to certain conditions such as the birds might be caught in wind and fog and are disoriented. They may get attracted towards light sources of the villagers. Thus in trying to reach the light sources, they might hit trees or other sources and get injured which caused their death. Thus number of birds might have died. A similar sort of incident occurs in Phillipines during similar weather conditions as in Jatinga. In Phillipines on windy foggy, moonless nights, birds are trapped by the local people which they call Twang .Even the villagers of Jatinga trap the disheveled birds by a forceful swing of the bamboopoles or catapults, when they fly towards the light source. They even try different methods to persuade the birds sitting on the top to come down so that they can easily catch it for food. Thus these birds fall easy prey to the villagers.

Many persons have undertaken various researches on this curious phenomenon, but no single theory could unravel the actual causes behind the ‘suicide of the birds’. Noted ornithologists Dr S. Sengupta, A. Rauf and Dr Salim Ali are some among the researchers. As per the findings of the various researchers, 44 species of birds are attracted to the light source. It has also been accepted that birds are not attracted to the entire Jatinga area but to a particular place of 1.5 km long and 200 meters wide. The birds come from the north and they are not attracted towards the lights of the south. Moreover it is also found that the birds which get attracted towards the light sources are mostly local birds which have their habitats in the adjacent hill slopes and valleys in and around Jatinga. The long distance migratory birds do not get attracted to the light traps put by villagers.

Anyway, Jatinga phenomenon is a very mysterious phenomenon and a topic of great interest for all bird lovers. But the question lies –why do this phenomenon occur? Do the birds really commit suicide, or do they get killed by the villagers just for mere sports sake? Why do the birds behave in a disheveled manner, specially, in Jatinga in the moonless foggy nights when the winds blow from south to north? Till now the mystery is far above human understanding. The phenomenon is not only a subject of ornithologist’s interest but it is really an amazing phenomenon. If the causes of this mystery is not found very soon we may certainly lose some of the most precious species of our feathered friends. The phenomenon not only deserves to be made known worldwide, but it deserves deeper scientific studies.

Published: 2006-09-08
Author: Pallavi Borgohain

About the author or the publisher
Pallavi Borgohain is basically a freelance content writer contributing promotional write-ups to various Web portals and magazines. A Masters in English literature, the author started her career as a feature writer of various newspapers and magazines. Moreover, the author is quite popular as a children book writer and for her contributory write-ups on humanities and electronic gadgets.The author can be contacted in

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