Really, do birds commit suicide? A question which has been long hovering on every bird enthusiast’s mind and even simple tourists around who hear the tall tale.
Birds come in hundreds to Jatinga and die. “They get attracted to the light and in the process hit themselves and die,” says Priyanka Adhikary, a resident of Guwahati. A similar light phenomenon occurs in Philippines in about the same time and in similar climatic conditions, that is on foggy, windy weather and moonless nights.
Commonly known as valley of deaths for birds, Jatinga is a small village in North Cachar Hill in Assam. The place is beautiful with scenic mountains surrounding it but is more famous for its Bird Mystery. This valley falls on the migratory route of locally migrating birds. Moreover, the time of the phenomenon occurring coincides with that of migration. On foggy, moonless nights, thousands of migratory birds die, rather commit suicide, between 7pm and 10pm. This amazing phenomenon is not restricted to a particular species and almost all kinds of migratory birds, like the Kingfisher, Tiger Bittern, and Little Egret, succumb to the mysterious death.
Locals have been witnessing this eerie phenomenon from August to October every year. They just know that birds are being thrashed to death after sunset. They however don’t have any rational reason for this phenomenon. Few equal this mystery to that of Bermuda Triangle about which people are still clueless as to what exactly is the reason behind.
“The place is a small steep valley surrounded from all sides. Perhaps the migratory birds follow little lights that they see and in the process get confused and trapped. Like pigeons get trapped inside the room, same way, these migratory birds too keep rotating in dark foggy place, are hit by trees and are spotted dead next morning,” says Anita Sachan, Special Tourism Officer of Assam who stayed in Jatinga’s forest for few years.
Jatinga was originally inhabited by the Zeme Nagas, who came 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 mystery of Jatinga remains unveiled till date and attracts ornithologists from all over the world. Some bird specialists attribute the phenomenon to the electro-magnetic forces of Jatinga, which is surrounded by geographical faultlines all round. 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 of 1.5km long and 200 metres wide.
When the light sources were placed on the southern side of Jatinga, the birds were not attracted. Some researchers have also contributed magnetic behaviour of the Sub terranean water as a reason for this phenomenon.
The deaths, though perplexing are not mourned. The villagers consider the coming of the birds to be a gift of Gods. Locals are quick to trap the birds using bamboo sticks, which are then consumed with relish.
The real reasons behind the Jatinga’s bird suicide phenomenon cannot be confirmed as there are different reasons cited by the researchers. However, thousands of tourists visit Jatinga every year. A bird watchtower has been built for tourists from where they can witness this mysterious phenomenon after prior permission.
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