“As fog comes on a moonless night..
When the wind blows in the direction right..
Jatinga turns into an island of search light.
& birds appear like ghosts from nowhere.” (Anonymous)
Commonly known as valley of deaths for birds, Jatinga is a small village on a ridge located in DimaHasao District in Assam. The place is beautiful with scenic mountains surrounding it but is more famous for Bird mystery.
Locals have been witnessing the eerie phenomenon from September to November for the last couple of years. They just know that birds are being thrashed to deaths after sunset. They however don’t have any rational reason for this phenomenon. Few equate this mystery to that of Bermuda triangle about which people are still clueless as to what exactly happens there! “They get attracted to the light and in the process hit themselves and die,” says PriyankaAdhikary, a resident of Guwahati.
However, most of the birds are migratory birds.The birds lose their natural habitat. They have to migrate to other places. And, Jatinga falls in their migratory path. Some of these birds include the Kingfisher, Indian pitta, Green breasted pitta, Green pigeon, Black drongo, Racket tailed dongo, Whistling ducks, Spotted doves, Emerald doves and Grey heron. The more baffling and puzzling question is why birds fly after sunset at all, as research shows that most birds are diurnal, that is, active only during the day.
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“It is not a suicide, to be precise. But the fact remains that birds are attracted by light and fly toward any object with a light source. This phenomenon still puzzles bird specialists,” said AnwaruddinChoudhury, a well-known ornithologist in Assam. When the light sources were placed on the southern side of Jatinga, the birds were not attracted. Some researches have also contributed magnetic behaviour of the subterranean water as a reason for this phenomenon.
Jatinga was originally inhabited by the ZemeNagas, who come across the bird phenomenon while guarding their paddy fields, on a moonless, dark night. Frightened, the Nagas sold the land to Jaintias and left the place way back in 1905. The ‘avian harakiri’ as the locals call it, has in fact shaped the region’s history. The phenomenon has generated tremendous interest in wildlife circle across the world and has made Jatinga world famous.
Though most people around the world know that this suicide phenomenon happens all through Jatinga but that is not the reality. It happens only on specific strip 1.5km long and 200 metres wide. ‘Statesman’ has a different take on bird’s suicide. They believe that the birds behave abnormally because of the peculiarity in the weather conditions.
The real reasons behind the Jatinga’s bird suicide phenomenon cannot be confirmed as there are different reasons cited by the researches. The deaths, though perplexing are not mourned. Locals are quick to trap the birds using bamboo sticks, which are then consumed with relish.
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