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Bird Suicides- A regular phenomenon in Jatinga

It is not a myth or a story but true happenings in Jatinga where many birds flow towards their own fatal fall every year in the month of September and October. It is an occurrence every year that post monsoon almost 44 species of birds in Jatinga all of a sudden become disturbed from 6-9:30 pm at night. The birds become confused and disoriented and plunge toward the lights of the cities. While we call it a bird suicide place because the birds come to Jatinga knowingly it would lead to their deaths at the same time the term suicide is a misnomer for a lot of reasons.

jatinga

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While we say that the bird’s suicidal tendencies lead them to Jatinga every year, usually it is the villagers in Jatinga who commit the real killings. It is believed that the birds are “evil spirits on the wing that have come to terrorize them” the villagers capture them with bamboo poles and beat these flying creatures to death.

It seems like an animal suicide attempt each year as, despite the danger and the regular killings every year, the birds continue to fly here in this small region of 1500 by 200 meters. A number of logical and geological theories have been projected, like the one that says that it is because of the high altitude, soaring winds, and vision blurring fog that disorients the birds and to move to a safer place, they are attracted to the light of the village as it provides them with a clear vision and hence stabilization. This theory is supported by the fact that intense light itself has been known to disorient birds.  

Another theory suggests that the cause of the disoriented state of birds is the weather conditions of the area. As it leads to fluctuations in the magnetic qualities of the underground water that makes the birds lose their track.  

Many Indian wildlife and bird societies working for the welfare of these innocent creatures have conducted awareness programs to educate the villagers about the phenomenon and scientific reasons of these birds coming over the place every year in an attempt to end the mass killings of the birds. These initiatives have been fairly successful as the bird deaths have decreased by almost forty per cent. On the other hand, the government officials in Assam are hoping to attract the attention of the tourists through this phenomenon to increase tourism. Working on the lines some accommodations have been developed for visitors in Jatinga.

There are several questions that answer to which can only be found with detailed scientific studies. 44 species of the birds have been recognized to die here and hence been termed as suicidal but none of these birds has any suicidal tendencies anywhere else in the world. Some of the bird species are  Kingfishers, Black Bitterns, Tiger Bitterns and Pond Herons that have never displayed any kind of suicidal tendency elsewhere. There are several other questions like these birds always fly from the north and reach a well-defined 1.5 km long and 200 meters wide stretch. Villagers in an experiment put up lights on the southern side of the region and arranged a landing strip but no bird landed from the south. Another major question is that why during those 3 hours only? Why only post Monsoon? And Why are these birds awake for so late? At night they should be in their nests but that is not the case. What bewilders them so much that they run towards the village lights?

These questions need answers. You can also study about the phenomenon in the book Birds of Assam by ornithologist Dr Anwaruddin Choudhury.

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