Over the last 100 years, thousands of birds have flown to their death over a small strip of land in Jatinga, India. In a town of only 2,500 people, this bizarre Bermuda Triangle of fowl death remains largely unexplained, despite studies by India’s most prestigious ornithologists.
The story talks about a mysterious phenomenon about Bird Suicide occurring over a small strip of land in Jatinga, India, for more than 100 years now. Today, let us analyze the unusual phenomenon in detail and learn the possible reasons behind it.
About the Mysterious Phenomenon
At the end of monsoon season, generally in September and October, during dark moonless nights, many birds in Jatinga suddenly become disturbed and disoriented between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and plunge toward the torches and lights of the cities — which is what is seen as mass bird suicide. Studies show that as many as 44 species of birds are vulnerable to this mysterious phenomenon confined to a small area of 1500 by 200 meters in Jatinga, a small village in North Cachar Hill district of Assam, India. Over hundred years, Jatinga has been (in)famous for this bird suicide that has baffled ornithologists. Called as ‘avian harakiri’ by the locals, the mysterious phenomenon was first observed by the Zeme Nagas, the tribe inhabiting the region in the early 1900s, and it was brought to global attention in the 1960s by the famous late naturalist E. P. Gee.
Not Suicide As Such
The small village of Jatinga is lush green and scenic, surrounded by serene mountains and inhabited by about 2,500 Jaintia tribal people. The term suicide is a misnomer for couple of reasons, one for the fact that the birds plunge to their deaths occasionally, and two, it is the villagers in Jatinga who do the actual killing by capturing the birds with bamboo poles and/or beating them to death. The locals practiced this ritual for many years, because they believed that evil spirits living in the skies were responsible for bringing down the birds. Shown in the video is a footage from Jatinga.
Over the years, there have been many studies and theories trying to explain the mysterious bird suicide happening in Jatinga:
A combination of high altitude, high speed winds, and widespread fog during that time of season is thought to disorient the birds, which are then attracted to the lights of the village as a means to stabilize their flight.
According to another theory from Dr. Sudhir Sengupta appointed by Zoological Survey of India, the unusual atmospheric conditions of the terrain leads to “changes in the magnetic qualities of the underground water” that disorients the birds causing them to fly towards the sources of light.
According to The Statesman (thestatesman.org), an Indian English daily newspaper, torches lit up by the locals attract the birds, which are killed also for food as and when they touch down. Note that bright light itself has been known to disorient birds.
The mysterious bird suicide phenomenon in Jatinga is detailed in the book ‘The Birds of Assam‘ by Assam’s best known ornithologist Dr Anwaruddin Choudhury, wherein he also mentions similar incidents occurring elsewhere in Malaysia, Philippines and Mizoram. He concluded that the birds in Jatinga, mostly juveniles and local migrants, are disturbed by high velocity winds at their roost (place of rest at night), which then fly towards lights as refuge and are hit with bamboo poles and killed or injured by locals.
Measures to Stop Killing
Various wildlife officials and conservation groups in India have been educating the villagers in Jatinga to create awareness on the bird incident and prevent their motiveless killing of birds; it has reduced the deaths by about 40%. Government officials in Assam are using the unusual phenomenon to attract tourists to Jatinga.
Hoax or Fact: