Jatinga is a modest and picturesque town nestled in the Borail Hills Range. It is situated in the Dima Hasao district of India’s Assam state. It is located 330 kilometers (210 miles) south of Guwahati, the state capital. The hamlet is home to around 2,500 people, the most of them are Khasi-Pnar and a few Assamese.
Thousands of birds have died while flying over a little strip of land in Jatinga, India, during the previous century. Despite research by India’s most respected ornithologists, this unusual Bermuda Triangle of bird mortality remains largely unexplained in a community of barely 2,500 people. Despite the deaths that occur each year, the birds continue to perish in this limited space of 1,500 meters by 200 meters even today.
Occurrence of Suicide
After the monsoon, which occurs exclusively on dark moonless evenings in September and October, 44 species of birds in Jatinga become dramatically disturbed between the hours of 6:00 PM and 9:30 PM. The birds, curiously lost, fly toward the torches and lights of the city. However, the term “suicide” is misleading for a number of reasons.
Jatinga receives few visits from the outside world due to its remoteness, with the exception of two critical months – August and September. During those months, a strange and inexplicable phenomena envelope the area, a phenomenon that has since become the main focus of international scientific research. It’s a natural occurrence for which no one has yet found an explanation.
Superstitious beliefs by locals
Many locals think that bad spirits in the skies are to blame for the deaths of the birds in the region. Though accounts of the strange birds of Jatinga initially arose near the close of the past century, the phenomena went almost undetected until lately. Jatinga residents recollect their forefathers mentioning a tiny population of Naga tribes living in the region at the time. They headed out with lit flares on a moonless night to look for a lost buffalo. Birds swooped down on them from the darkness as soon as they reached the Jatinga ridge.
The terrified Nagas fled, thinking them to be malevolent spirits. They abandoned the region, and a few years later, a group of Jaintia tribes arrived in search of a place to live. The Nagas directed them toward the ridge.
Scientific theories behind the incident
According to renowned naturalist Anwaruddin Choudhury, as described in his book The Birds of Assam, “the bulk of birds are young, and local migrants are disturbed by high-velocity winds at their roots.” According to Choudhury in a story published by The Sentinel, when startled birds fly towards the light as refugees, they are whacked with bamboo poles and killed or damaged.
When the late naturalist E.P Gee drove to Jatinga with famous ornithologist Salim Ali in the 1960s, he brought this event to the attention of the world. Because of the severe fog quality at the time, the data were obtained under unpredictable conditions at high altitudes and with high-speed winds. According to several studies, the majority of birds perish between September and November when Assam’s water bodies flood and the birds lose their natural home. Because their nests are destroyed, they are forced to travel to other locations, and Jatinga is in their route.
There have also been theories proposed that a combination of high altitude, high winds, and fog causes avian confusion. As a form of stability, they are drawn to the lights of adjacent communities. Another idea proposes that the area’s environment causes a “shift in the magnetic properties of the subsurface water”, resulting in the bird’s perplexity.
One probable reason for the strange suicide is the use of high-powered searchlights on nearby hilltops, which draws the birds flying at the time. Birds fly down towards the lights and are killed as they fall on bamboo poles. This incidence, however, does not affect all long-distance migratory birds.
As the advent of birds is regarded a “gift of Gods”, this is how the residents of Jatinga got the opportunity to capture them and devour them for food. Initiatives for Bird Conservation Wildlife and bird organizations in India have travelled to the area to educate the inhabitants about the occurrence in an effort to put an end to the mass slaughter of birds. Since then, avian fatalities have dropped by 40%. Assam government officials intend to leverage the phenomena to bring tourists to the little city of Jatinga, and some effort has been done to create lodgings for visitors.