Have you ever heard of a bird committing suicide? I am sure you must be reading the previous line again. Yes, that’s what I told the person to repeat again. Do birds too have a suicidal tendency? The person who has traveled lots of rough terrains and plains told me the mystery of avian suicides in a village named Jatinga.
Jatinga is a small Assamese village in one of the North-Eastern states of India is not only famous for its bird suicide occurrence but also for its lush scenic beauty. However, the bird mystery intrigues the people more and attracts travelers to Jatinga valley especially in the later monsoon months of September to October. This yearly occurrence of mass suicides of local and migratory birds can be witnessed after sunset till say, 10 pm. This must be really baffling to you, believe me, I was scratching my head to see the logic behind this mystery. Of course, I am no scientist but even they were equally puzzled by this occurrence where birds of myriads of colors and species just dive down and crash to death by hitting into massive trees and buildings.
I just got a scratch of information about this strange phenomenon and I immediately googled it to know more about its history and scientific observations. What I found was shocking and intriguing at the same time. When I surfed through the various pages to know about the origin of this phenomenon, I found out that this was believed by the simple-minded villagers to be some kind of curse from the evil spirits. Scared to be the object of this fatal curse many fled from the village. More browsing led me the information about the re-settlements in Jatinga and the new settlers also took as this as an act of evil sprite and ended up beating the injured birds to death by the locally available bamboo poles.
A further reading on these incidents led me to the explanations made by various scientists and ornithologists. A few were of the opinion that this fatal disorientation of the many migratory and local birds to the lights is the result of monsoon fog along with high winds and altitude that disturbs their stabilization during flight. I found the same explanation in many places in twisted words. On further digging, I found another piece of scientific observation that reminded me the “Bermuda Triangle”. According to this theory, this bird suicidal occurrence may be due to the effect of magnetism in the surrounding underground water. I know its sound strange but there are still many facts on this earth that still seems to be strange, untried and unexplained beyond the human psyche.
However, I like birds being free and independent rather than being caged for our entertainment. The beating up of the injured birds really unsettled me but I stumbled upon the information where the Government took initiatives to educate the residents of Jatinga to cease killing of these innocent birds.
This sad but strange bird suicidal occurrence now seems to pull a number of visitors thus making the place a spot for tourist attractions especially during International Jatinga Festival. Despite many explanations from the scientific point of view, this phenomenon still remains a mystery.
Birds of Assam – Anwaruddin Choudhury (2000)