Located somewhere in the range of nine km south of Haflong in Assam’s Dima Hasao district, Jatinga is a picturesque village renowned for an inquisitive phenomenon- Birds’ suicide!
People throng the place between August and November to watch the wonder of birds plunging to their impending death.
Jatinga, renowned for this curious phenomenon of birds committing suicide is actually on a goad of the Haflong ridge. It itself is a branch of the principle edge of the Borail range. Lying at the intersection of the streets that lead to Silchar, Lumding and Haflong, this area remains covered with fog and mist during the time spanning September, October and November. And it is during this late monsoon period that these infamous deaths happen.
Although locals associate the phenomenon with some curse, other obvious factors seem more credibly responsible for this occurrence. Generally, the atmosphere during the mentioned stretch of months remains out-and-out shady with mist and fog, as a result of which birds struggle to navigate the area. In the event that there is slight downpour, it is even more likely for the birds to meet accidents and cause harm to their own selves.
Although, this is only a hypothesis, ornithologists are of the opinion that migratory birds fly towards certain light sources in Jatinga put out by the locals. Why? Maybe because they get trapped in the haze and wind of the monsoons, feel puzzled and look for comfort of these light sources visible to them. In their flight down to the light, they probably collide with trees and other obstacles that come in their way, injure themselves or die.
Strangely, after having arrived close to the lights, these birds don’t try to make any retreat. The reason? Not clear but most likely because they find themselves in a state of some kind of shock. Villagers take undue advantage of this and make these birds their easy prey. The birds that keep hovering after nearing the light sources are brought down using slings, bamboo shafts or other bird hunting tools by these people.
According to the district’s official sources, a lot of studies done in this area point at the fact that this phenomenon has no supernatural connections. As per certain published information, around 44 species of birds get drawn towards these light sources. These species are not attracted to the whole Jatinga ridge, but only to a particular strip which is some 200 m wide and a little more than a kilometer long. Most of these birds arrive only from the north side and every endeavour to attract them by setting lights on the southern side of the ridge has plainly failed.
More interestingly, only those birds that belong to nearby valleys and slope inclines fly towards these light sources. No long distance migratory bird has ever been a victim.