~ Manasjyoti Thakuria.
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand”
Jatinga, famous for the phenomenon of birds “committing suicide”, is located on a spur of the Haflong ridge, the head quarter of the district. It itself is an offshoot of the main ridge of the Borail range. It is centrally located at the junction of the roads leading to Haflong, Lumding and Silchar. Here the mist & fog lie like a veil around the beautiful face of the damsel from September to November. During these late monsoon months, mysterious behaviour of birds takes place. However, some other conditions are also necessary for the phenomenon to occur. The air must be foggy, cloudy or misty. If there is slight rain, it would be even better. The wind must be from south to north. It should be moonless dark nights. And the best time is between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Curiously, most of the doomed birds do not attempt to fly away after they land near the lights. They look dazed and disheveled, perhaps due to the trauma of the whole shocking experience. Such birds fall easy prey to the villagers. Some of the birds hovering around the light sources are brought down by a vigorous swing of the bamboo poles. Catapults are also used to bring down the birds in flight as well as those perching on the trees and bushes near the light sources. However, contrary to the popular belief, birds do not commit suicide. Under circumstances not yet fully explained, these birds get caught in the fog and wind, get disoriented and seek solace of the light sources put out by the villagers. They hit against trees or other objects and get injured in their flight towards the light source. The villagers hit the hovering birds with bamboo poles or catapults to bring them down.
Various studies have been conducted to unravel the causes behind this phenomenon. The record maintained show that 44 species have been attracted to the light sources. It has been established that the birds are not attracted to the entire Jatinga Ridge but only to a well-defined strip, 1.5 km long and 200 metres wide. Invariably the birds come in only from the north and attempts at placing the lights on the southern side of the ridge to attract the birds have failed. Another interesting fact has been brought out is that no long distance migratory bird gets attracted to the light traps. The victims are resident birds of the adjacent valleys and hill slopes.
The unusual behaviour of the birds seems to occur due to the peculiar weather conditions at Jatinga. There also appears to be a correlation between the breeding period of the birds and the Jatinga phenomenon. Studies also reveal that the flight of water birds to Jatinga may be attributed to heavy rains and floods and submergence of their natural habitat in the surrounding areas. It has been observed that there was a high congregation of birds at Jatinga during 1988 which happened to be a year of high floods. Renowned ornithologists Dr. Salim Ali, Dr. S.Sengupta, A. Rauf etc. have carried out researches on this subject. However, no single hypothesis comprehensively explains the Jatinga mystery till date. The problem deserves deeper scientific study from various angles.
(References are available on request)
~Manasjyoti Thakuria, 3rd Year, B.V.Sc. & A.H.,
College of Veterinary Science, AAU, Khanapara, Guwahati, Assam-781022, India.
Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org, Contact No.: +91-8486759176.