Jatinga is a small village situated in the north-eastern state of India, Assam. It is located amidst the hills in the district of Cachar. The place has damsel like beauty with scenic mountains surrounding it and an ideal. But Jatinga is more popular among the tourists for the birds committing suicide then its natural beauty. Yes, it is an mysterious phenomenon as birds are not known to have suicidal tendencies. There are certain criteria for this phenomenon to take place; there should be fog, cloud and mist. It happens in the late monsoon months between September and November and ideally the phenomenon is seen between 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Earlier it was held by the villagers that the evil spirits flying in the skies are responsible for bringing these birds down. And only some species of birds that offend the spirits are brought down.
But in times of science, many ornithologists have dedicated their time in research of this unnatural phenomenon. They have found that there are many species of local birds such as Kingfishers, Pond Heron, Black Bittern, Tiger Bittern, etc. are subjected to such strange behaviour. Studies have also revealed that the birds commit suicide in Jatinga during the late monsoon as most of the water bodies in Assam are flooded by that time. The birds lose their natural habitat. They have to migrate to other places. Jatinga falls in their migratory path. In 1988 when Assam faced severe floods maximum number of bird suicides was reported in Jatinga. Some of the long distance migratory birds are not affected by this phenomenon.
According to the researchers, the birds look dazed and half dead not moving, when they are attracted by the lights placed by villagers. But contrary to the popular belief the birds do not commit suicide. The villagers usually hunt these birds with a bamboo swing. Some birds even die while rushing towards the light sources. On their way they collide with the branches of trees and die. Some scholars feel that the birds behave abnormally because of the peculiarity in the weather conditions. Late monsoon also coincides with the breeding time of the birds.
Though most people around the world know that this bird suicide phenomenon happens all through Jatinga but that is not the reality. It happens only on specific strip 1.5 km 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 subterranean water as a reason for this phenomenon. Leading newspaper, Statesman has a different take on bird’s suicide. They feel that the birds are naturally attracted by light sources when they are travelling long distances in cold weather. The strategic location of the light sources coupled with the burning torches of the villagers attracts the birds which are then hunted by the villagers.
Real reasons behind the Jatinga bird’s suicide phenomenon cannot be confirmed as there are different reasons cited by the researchers. But Jatinga is not the only place in the world where such weird behaviour of birds is noticed. This phenomenon is also seen in Philippines, Malaysia and another state of India Mizoram.