Imagine waking up on a beautiful morning, only to find your front lawn littered with corpses of birds staining the ground with their blood.As a sane person, you would be quite entitled to scream like a little girl, take a moment to calm down then call the authorities (or keep screaming). 

Could you imagine considering this a daily occurrence and remaining unfazed? 

Unless you are a psychopath with a propensity for killing birds, your answer would probably be a resounding ‘NO’. 

Unfortunately for the residents of a small village in the north-eastern part of India, this really is a common occurrence. 

Now before you conjure up images of witchcraft, black magic or weird Indian rituals, let me inform you, this isn’t a case of some sort of bird genocide but rather a mass suicide. 

Although Jatinga, a small village of Assam (North-Eastern State of India) is blessed with scenic beauty, it is also cursed with a grim reality which is both terrifying and fascinating at the same time.

It is not famous for its scenic beauty but unfortunately is known for “mass bird suicide”. This phenomenon has baffled the locals and the scientific community alike because birds are not known for committing suicide.

This strange phenomenon, happening over 100 years between the months of September and November every year after the monsoon whenever there is fog, cloud or mist, generally after sunset, between 7 p.m to 10 p.m. This happens in a particular stretch of 1.5 km long and 200 meters wide area of the village.

Ornithologists from all across the globe have tried to solve this strange mystery but could not reach to any conclusive answer.

Their research has shown that there is a total of 44 different species of birds affected by this phenomenon some of which are Black Bitterns, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Cinnamon Bittern, Ruddy Kingfisher, Little Egret, Tiger Bittern, Indian Pitta, Indian Pond Heron and Chinese Pond Heron.

Another interesting fact is that no long-distance migratory birds are affected by it.

Theories as to why this phenomenon is happening.

Locals used to believe that evil spirits living in the skies were responsible for bringing down the birds.

Many scientist and ornithologist came to a conclusion that the birds are generally disoriented by the monsoon fog and get attracted by the village lights, flying toward them. While on their way they get blinded by the light, sometimes hitting walls and trees during the descent.

Some of the birds succumb to severe injury, while others are grievously injured and become easy prey of the villagers. These birds become dazed and disheveled and do not put up any resistance when villagers attack them with slings or bamboo sticks. 

The many unanswered facts remain.

  • Why the birds come in only from the north? Lights placed on the southern side of the village failed to attract any birds.
  • Why do these birds fly in the night?
  • Why they get voluntarily trapped at the same place every year?

This strange phenomenon has made Jatinga an attractive tourist destination. For the promotion of tourism, the Government of Assam’s tourism department has collaborated with the district authorities to organize the ’Jatinga Festival’. The first Jatinga festival was held in 2010.


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Comments (1)

  1. Natarajan

Sad news to be heard by any nature lover or birdwatcher. I never knew about this phenomenon. The explanation of fog, disorientation and altitude makes sense. Although I'm not an expert of birds and this phenomenon, long back I read somewhere that...

Sad news to be heard by any nature lover or birdwatcher. I never knew about this phenomenon. The explanation of fog, disorientation and altitude makes sense. Although I'm not an expert of birds and this phenomenon, long back I read somewhere that birds pass down the migratory paths to their offspring which could be one possible reason as to why birds of so many species keep coming year after year. Hope this sad mass death of birds changes or reduces.

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